Evolution of the law of the sea: developments in law-making in the wake of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention
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It is no exaggeration to say that the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was one of the most important law-making events of the twentieth century. It heralded the beginning of a revolution in international law by introducing a new law-making technique based on consensus decision-making and universal participation. It also produced a comprehensive treaty on the law of the sea. The resulting Law of the Sea Convention is commonly claimed to provide a universal legal framework for all ocean activities. Upon this background, it is pertinent to ask, what is the future for the LOS Convention and the law of the sea in the twenty-first century? How does the Convention evolve to take into account changing values, policies and preferences of the international community? How have developments in law-making techniques influenced the way in which the law of the sea is created and changed? This thesis initially establishes the legal basis for the LOS Convention as a universal framework for the law of sea. It shows how the negotiation of the Convention substantially influenced customary international law so that it is possible to speak of a universal law of the sea. Yet, the status of the Convention as universal law poses problems for its future development because it cannot be considered solely from the perspective of the law of treaties. The thesis will therefore consider the mechanisms for change contained within the Convention alongside other law-making processes out-with the formal treaty framework. Central to this analysis is the role of institutions in modern international law-making. The thesis looks at the part played by political and technical institutions in developing the law of the sea through interpretation, modification, and amendment, as well as at the ways in which these institutions have utilised and developed the consensus decision-making techniques first seen at UNCLOS III. It will also analyse the role of courts and tribunals in maintaining and developing the legal order of the oceans. This analysis shows that the Convention provides the legal framework for the modern law of the sea for all states. In this context, institutional processes have largely replaced unilateral state practice in law-making. Moreover, states have shown a preference for flexibility and pragmatism over formal amendment procedures. The greatest achievement of the LOS Convention is the creation of a stable legal order for the oceans. To ensure this stability is maintained, continued discussion, deliberation and compromise through international institutions is vital.