SafeSeas submits joint evidence to ‘International Relations and Defence Committee’

SafeSeas submitted evidence to the UK’s House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee inquiry ‘UNCLOS: fit for purpose in the 21st century?’

The evidence can be downloaded here.

The inquiry explored the extent to which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994, remains fit for purpose in 2021. It examined the enforcement of UNCLOS, its dispute resolution mechanisms, and the extent to which is has proved able to adapt to new and emerging challenges, including climate change, autonomous maritime systems, and issues of human rights and human security at sea. It explored the UK’s current policy towards UNCLOS and approach in practice, and considered which international partners and alliances will be important for the UK to address these challenges and uphold its interests.

The evidence, authored by Scott Edwards, Christian Bueger, Tim Edmunds, Basil Germond, Tobias Liebetrau & Jan Stockbruegger, foregrounded political and security factors when reviewing the status of UNCLOS and its capacity to deal with contemporary challenges at sea. It argued that UNCLOS continues to serve the interests of the UK and other maritime powers, and that contemporary questions for UNCLOS therefore primarily concern its implementation in the face of new challenges. The evidence explored state-sponsored challenges, climate change, blue crimes, and undersea cables.

It recommended that addressing these challenges will entail amendments or additions to existing international treaties, legal and maritime law enforcement capacity building with partner states, the strengthening or maritime security cooperation and information sharing arrangements between states and within regions, and the sharing and implementation of lessons learned and best practices (for example from piracy prosecutions) between regions and across issue areas. Specifically, it focused on collective seapower, leadership in the UNSC, a renewed role for NATO, MDA and operational coordination and capacity building, and a new subsea cable regime.

The committee received 45 written evidence submissions, including from SafeSeas network members Douglas Guilfoyle, Richard Barnes, and Robert McCabe. All submissions can be found here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1557/unclos-fit-for-purpose-in-the-21st-century/publications/

Posted by Scott Edwards

Dr. Edwards is a research associate at the University of Bristol for the TOCAS project. Scott completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2019, where he analysed the role of trust in security communities under Nicholas Wheeler. He holds an MA from the University of Birmingham in Asia-Pacific International Relations, and has primarily focused on Southeast Asian security issues. He is the lead author of the SafeSeas evidence base and specialists in issues of coordination and inter-agency management.

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