The Law of the Sea Convention: A National Security Success - Global Strategic Mobility Through the Rule of Law

30 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2010 Last revised: 5 May 2011

See all articles by James Kraska

James Kraska

Stockton Center for International Law, U.S. Naval War College; Harvard University - Harvard Law School; University of California Berkeley School of Law; Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

Date Written: July 25, 2010


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has been called a constitution for the world’s oceans because it provides a legal and policy architecture for conduct on, over, and under more than seventy percent of the globe. So far, the treaty has served as an enduring framework for ensuring a stability of expectations. In many respects, the Convention codifies customary international law and the state practice comprised of the cumulative actions of governments in areas such as transit through international straits and establishment of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Convention has gone far toward fulfilling Professor Myres S. McDougal’s vision for a minimum world “public order of the oceans.” Professor McDougal and his collaborator, William T. Burke, suggested that developing a stable regime for the oceans required a “comprehensive . . . process of authoritative decision.” This process flowed from three distinct elements - interaction among the maritime states and ocean users, the rights of access of the international community to ocean space and the rights of coastal state to claim jurisdiction over ocean space, and determinations of decision makers responding to these competing claims. This process gave definition and certainty to the navigational regimes of the treaty. The unfolding process of authoritative decision for a public order of the oceans is displayed through maritime operational and diplomatic theater. In the contemporary era, this drama unfolds within the boundaries set by the Convention, and the United States and other countries have a great interest in ensuring the stability of those boundaries.

Keywords: UNCLOS, law of the sea, navigation, freedom of the seas, global commons, oceans, sea, maritime, power

Suggested Citation

Kraska, James, The Law of the Sea Convention: A National Security Success - Global Strategic Mobility Through the Rule of Law (July 25, 2010). George Washington International Law Review, Vol. 39, 2007, Available at SSRN:

James Kraska (Contact Author)

Stockton Center for International Law, U.S. Naval War College ( email )

686 Cushing Rd.
Newport, RI 02841
United States
(401) 841-1536 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of California Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) ( email )

The Harold Pratt House
58 East 68th Street
New York, NY 10021
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics