Global perspective Human stories

Treaty governing use of oceans reaching near-universal participation, UN reports

Treaty governing use of oceans reaching near-universal participation, UN reports

A United Nations treaty governing use of the world's oceans has reached near-universal participation, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report released 20 years after the accord was first adopted.

In the two decades since the Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature, 137 countries and the European Community have become parties to the treaty, the Secretary-General notes in his report. While the accomplishments over the past 20 years have been impressive, the challenges of implementing the treaty are also formidable.

"Thus, in this anniversary year, the international community should focus its efforts on actions that would contribute to the realization of optimal benefits from the world's oceans and seas," Mr. Annan says. At the same time, he adds, nations must minimize the problems that have arisen, including limitations in harnessing marine potential and the degradation of the marine environment.

First raised in 1967 as an idea to regulate the use of the seabed, the Convention was eventually adopted in 1982 as an unprecedented attempt by the international community to regulate all aspects of the resources of the sea and uses of the ocean.

The Convention, which entered into force on 16 November 1994, or one year after the 60th country's adherence to the accord, covers such issues as setting limits to national jurisdiction over the seas, navigational rights, deep seabed mining, and protection of the marine environment.

In addition, the accord features a binding dispute settlement mechanism known as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The court, which deals with the interpretation or application of the Convention, has already heard 10 cases.