December 10 marked 40 years since 119 delegations, perhaps inspired by the clear blue waters of Jamaica’s Montego Bay, became the first signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a comprehensive framework for the governance of the world’s oceans and seas.
However, there is little time for celebratory observance. The planet demands an even greater impetus for a rules-based order and a recasting of the imperfect treaty because of the increasing challenges of climate change, collapsing fisheries, new technologies, maritime security and the mining of deep seabed resources.
At the 14th annual South China Sea Conference, held in Da Nang on November 16 and hosted by Vietnam’s Diplomatic Academy, I heard Judge Kriangsak Kittichaisaree from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea reinforce the “real possibility that sea-level rise may submerge many of the geographical features in the South China Sea, which have served as bases to exert maritime entitlements”.
The science is clear. The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that “global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in at least the last 3,000 years.”
Read the full article on the South China Morning Post