Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 26: The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and Marine Environmental Protection

David M. Ong


* David M. Ong Introduction Among the many international legal developments concerning environmental protection that have emerged in the years since the so-called Earth Summit in 1992 (also known as the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro), the entry into force of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 16 November 1994, one year after the deposit of the 60th instrument of its ratification at the UN, as required by its Article 308, is arguably the ‘main event’. As one writer has put it, during the decade following the Stockholm Conference (on the Human Environment), the environmental provisions of the 1982 UNCLOS constituted the single most important step forward toward the progressive development of international environmental law. (Nanda, 1995a: 257) The same commentator also noted that the entry into force of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea represents an important step forward in international environmental law, for it raises to binding treaty status the ideals of Principle 21 of the Stockholm Declaration, and strives to balance environmental protection and resource management with the requirements of free navigation. (Nanda, 1995b: 657) One lesson in international environmental negotiation that has been learned already from the negotiation process of the 1982 Convention itself relates to the fact that this was the first intergovernmental negotiating conference in which many newly independent, developing countries actively participated. Their participation was significant in two ways: first, their arrival on the international stage further upset...

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