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
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
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