The Challenge of the New Ocean Regime

By Ruivo, Mario | UNESCO Courier, February 1986 | Go to article overview
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The Challenge of the New Ocean Regime


Ruivo, Mario, UNESCO Courier


The challenge of the new ocean regime

IN considering the consequences of the signature, by over 150 nations, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the words of the Portuguese poet who said that "today is the first day of the rest of your life" come to my mind. Indeed, this historic event marks the beginning of a new relationship between mankind and the oceans. It represents to some extent the culmination of a long process of universal negotiation among States. It is also the beginning of a phase of international co-operation aimed at the achievement of the objectives of the Convention, as well as the dreams and aspirations behind its provisions.

The new ocean regime is a development with far-reaching consequences for the conduct of ocean affairs at the national and international levels. It is also a symbolic event in that it reflects the important changes that have been shaping the world community since the Second World War (characterized mainly by the process of decolonization and national self-determination) as well as by the drive for a more just and equitable economic order built on a foundation of peaceful and friendly relations between countries regardless of their political and economic systems.

Among the many features of the new ocean charter that constitute innovations with respect to the 1958 Convention on the Law of the Sea, mention should be made of the regime for marine scientific research and the transfer of marine technology. This innovation is derived from the growing perception by States of the value of science and technology, first to economic and social development and secondly as sources of power and an element of the independence of States in the modern world. Science is a fundamental component of a technological civilization. Scientific activities generate the information required for many kinds of economic activity. Without scientific data, modern States, government administrations and industrial management could not perform their functions effectively or achieve their goals.

The Convention includes a comprehensive regime for the conduct of international marine scientific research and the transfer of knowledge and technology. Some principles and rules establish the duty of States to co-operate directly with each other or through the appropriate international, regional or sub-regional organizations.

The rights accorded to coastal States--and the corresponding duties of States engaged in research--for granting or refusing their consent to research to be conducted in their Exclusive Economic Zones create favourable conditions for the participation of local scientists in research activities, training, access to required knowledge, and so on. It should be noted in this context that, besides references in the Convention to "regional centres", to be established or reinforced for the promotion of marine scientific research and technology and related training and transfer of knowledge, mention is also made of national centres to be created at the local level for the same purpose. The functions assigned to this type of institution--and the need for further elaboration of the concept of regional centres--reflect the concern for participation by, and the aspiration for real partnership among, developing countries in scientific and technological international marine programmes and activities in the future.

Pending the ratification and entry into force of the Convention, and to facilitate the progressive implementation of the new regime by States, a major requirement is the improvement or the establishment of the necessary institutional arrangements. During the Conference on the Law of the Sea, a detailed discussion on institutional aspects was deliberately left aside and was only dealt with in general terms in connexion with specific articles. Neither was there any mention by name of the appropriate intergovernmental organizations, except in a few cases, so as to avoid extra difficulties resulting from the definition of competences in various aspects of oceanic affairs within the United Nations system.

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