Australia and the third United Nations conference on the law of the sea




Bergin, Anthony Samuel

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The Third United Nations conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 111) that took place between 1973-1982 was the most comprehensive political and legislative work ever undertaken by the United Nations. Arguably the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea that resulted from the conference in terms of the range of interests involved is the most important multilateral treaty Australia has ever signed after the UN Charter itself. Australia was an influential player at the negotiations in which almost every state in the world participated. The Australian position on most issues at the conference was accepted in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. This thesis provides a history of Australian law of the sea diplomacy at UNCLOS 111. The study seeks to analyse Australian policy objectives at the conference in terms of Australian negotiating strategies and tactics. It is argued that at UNCLOS 111 Australia moved away from its traditional position on law of the sea issues which was to support the maritime powers. Instead Australia moved at the conference to align itself with coastal state positions. The study seeks to identify Australia’s overall role in the negotiations and analyse the reasons why Australian negotiators were remarkably successful in promoting Australia’s interests. The study draws certain lessons from Australia’s UNCLOS 111 experience that may be relevant for Australian participation in future exercises in conference diplomacy. The study concludes with a consideration of whether Australia should ratify the 1982 Convention and discusses Australia’s implementation of the Convention. Conclusions are drawn on the relevance of Australia’s law of the sea diplomacy for the future direction of Australian foreign policy.






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