Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

An Interview with Gudmundur Eiriksson: A Supplement to the Position Papers by John Norton Moore St William L. Schachte Jr. and Doug Bandow

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

An Interview with Gudmundur Eiriksson: A Supplement to the Position Papers by John Norton Moore St William L. Schachte Jr. and Doug Bandow

Article excerpt

GUDMUNDUR EIRIKSSON served as a Law of the Sea Officer in the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1974 to 1976 and as a Special Consultant at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1977. He joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland in 1977 and has held the rank of Ambassador since 1988; he served as Assistant Legal Adviser (1977-1980), Legal Adviser (1980-1996) and Ambassador to Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru (2003-2005). He was a member of Icelandic delegations to numerous international forums, including the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (1978-1982), the Preparatory Commission for the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Council of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (President 1984-1988). He was a Judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (1996-2002) and President, Chamber for Fisheries Disputes (1999-2002). Eiriksson received an A.B. degree and a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Rutgers College in 1970, an LL.B. degree from King's College, University of London in 1973 and an LL.M. degree from Columbia University in 1974.

The following is adapted from an interview with Ambassador Eiriksson conducted in October 2005. The comments that follow are Ambassador Eiriksson's personal views and do not reflect the position of the United Nations or the government of Iceland.

EIRIKSSON'S ROLE IN "THE LAW OF THE SEA" NEGOTIATIONS

Eiriksson details his background and how it led to his involvement with UNCLOS:

I'll start with my background and how I got into the law of the sea business. I would have to say that, being Icelandic, I was born into it; the sea is my life's blood. It seems only natural that my involvement in Iceland's international affairs would focus on the law of the sea. I earned my master's from Columbia University, but before that I studied law in England during the Cod War between Iceland and the United Kingdom. After graduating from Columbia, I joined the United Nations in the summer of 1974 during the first standard session for the Third Law of the Sea Conference [UNCLOS III, 1973], which began in Caracas. I worked as the assistant to the chairman of the Second Committee. Three years later, I returned to Iceland and became the legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry. I continued in that capacity, serving on the Icelandic delegation to the convention until it concluded. Afterwards I was involved in the negotiations for the so-called Implementation Agreement. From there I was selected as one of the first judges for the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

THE LAW-SEA INTERFACE: THE ORIGINS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

It has been argued that international law originated in maritime affairs. Eiriksson assesses this claim:

The formative period of international law revolved around the law of the sea and was characterized by great scholars who debated issues such as the freedom of the seas. But the reason it started in this arena is that international crises were not necessarily dictated by state-to-state relationships, but instead were characterized by each state vis-a-vis the rest of the world. As far as the law of the sea is concerned, it has more or less remained static for perhaps two or three hundred years.

It was the pressures of depleted fishing resources that spurred concern in the early 20th century to deal with the outer limits of coastal state jurisdiction. At that time, the argument was really about whether states should have a three-mile or larger fishing zone. The issue heated up when the so-called Truman Proclamation of 1948 extended or established U.S. jurisdiction over its continental shelf, which drew the ire of many other countries. Several countries without shelf resources figured they could follow suit and made similar expansions with respect to their fishing resources. …

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