The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, is the international agreement that defined the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources. It also established the rules for the use of the high seas for international navigation, and outlined the rights and responsibilities of nations in the protection of the marine environment. The Convention, concluded in 1982 came into force in 1994.
More than thirty years after its opening for signature and twenty years after its entry into force, UNCLOS continues to provide an effective, comprehensive and overarching international legal framework for the oceans and seas. The UN General Assembly has recognized the pre-eminent contribution of the Convention to the strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations, to the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples of the world, as well as to the sustainable development of the oceans and seas. Because UNCLOS covers a wide range of ocean issues, it also provides the legal framework for their sustainable development. UNCLOS has thus emerged as an important part of the international legal system and also serves as an important instrument for the protection of the marine environment.
Non-Aligned Movement regards United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 as one of the most comprehensive legal instruments negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations.
The Movement has emphasized its importance for its States Parties as the primary instrument which, inter alia, confers rights on coastal states for the exploration and exploitation of the living and non-living marine resources within national jurisdiction, as well as establishes a framework for access by other states to these resources and defines the rights and responsibilities of states in their use of the world’s oceans, including their general obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment. NAM has also highlighted the importance of the designation by the Convention of the seabed, subsoil and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction as the common heritage of mankind, as well as the establishment of the International Seabed Authority, to organize, control and administer all activities of the state parties in the Area on behalf of the international community and in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the Convention.
Prominent NAM Member States are party to UNCLOS. India is party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the UNCLOS; and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. India has been a member of the Council of the International Seabed Authority and its experts are elected to its Finance Committee and the Legal and Technical Commission. Also, an Indian scientist is regularly elected to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf established under the UNCLOS. Further, an Indian jurist has been an elected judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea since its establishment in 1996.
Vietnam, another prominent NAM Member State has actively applied relevant provisions of general international law since the adoption of the UNCLOS, to develop its legislative and regulatory acts relating to the sea. In conformity with the progressive trend of international maritime law, Vietnam has promulgated “Declaration on the Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf” in 1977 establishing the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical mile (nm), extending the rights of Vietnam to the sea, not just confined to the right to fishing rights, but also other sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
With this Declaration, Vietnam together with Kenya, Myanmar, Cuba, Yemen, Dominique, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Mexico and Seychelles were the pioneering states in developing the concept of Exclusive Economic Zone, thus contributing to the development and consolidation of the practice of States, which later on became an important institution of the UNCLOS.
NAM thus regards UNCLOS as a significant instrument of international law and also highlights its importance for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity.