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Public International Law
UNCLOS is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Also referred to as “The Law of the Sea Convention,” UNCLOS is an international convention that sets out the legal framework for the seas and the oceans by defining the rights and obligations of States Parties with respect to the maritime environment. Its main functions are to promote the peaceful use of the seas, regulate the use of marine resources and promote the conservation of living resources and the preservation of the marine environment.
While the statement is not universally agreed, it is widely accepted that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea reflects customary international law to a significant extent. Nonetheless, it cannot be assumed that every provision of UNCLOS has obtained customary law status. The proposition that a specific rule contained in UNCLOS is part of customary international law needs to be supported by State practice and by opinio juris, which is the States’ conviction that they have a legal obligation to comply with such a rule.
UNCLOS has been ratified by 168 parties. These include 164 United Nations Member States, a United Nations Observer State (Palestine), the European Union, the Cook Islands and Niue. One of the most significant State that has neither signed nor ratified UNCLOS is the United States of America. Relying on objections to certain UNCLOS’ provisions concerning the seabed and ocean floor, which it considered against its economic and security interests, the United States did not become a party to the Convention.
UNCLOS has 168 parties. An additional 14 United Nations Member States have signed UNCLOS but have not ratified it. Only 16 United Nations Member and Observer States have neither signed nor ratified UNCLOS.
The United States of America has neither signed nor ratified UNCLOS. Relying on objections to certain UNCLOS’s provisions in Part XI of UNCLOS concerning the seabed and ocean floor, which it considered against its economic and security interests, the United States did not ratify the Convention. While the legal framework on Part XI was amended in 1994 by an agreement that the United States signed, to date the United States has neither signed nor ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The following 15 United Nations Member States and one United Nations Observer State have not signed or ratified UNCLOS:
Some of these States are landlocked and their decision not to sign or accede to the Convention may be motivated by limited practical necessity. However, certain other States decided not to sign or accede to the Convention because they disagreed with some of its provisions.
Since its adoption UNCLOS has been criticized for various reasons, ranging from negatively affecting the security or economic interest of certain States to the difficulties encountered to enforce certain of its provisions in the face of non-compliance by its parties. On the other hand, others have hailed UNCLOS as one of the most comprehensive treaties ever adopted, which sets out a detailed and unified framework for the Law of the Sea.
Attorney advertising. The material contained on this page is only a general review of the subjects covered and does not constitute legal advice. No legal or business decision should be based on its contents.
Charles L. O. Buderi
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Luciana Teresa Ricart
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