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19 - July 1981

The Conference about the new law of the Sea, which opened in 1973, is going to meet for the 11th time, very soon. The 9th session, in Geneva, in August 1980, had achieved a compromise which mundialists could but applaud, so it seemed, for they could witness one step forward towards one of the Supranational Institutions they have been so strongly wishing for and this for several decades. But, last spring, Americans seemed extremely doubtful.

What is the exact position ?

A) WATER - what seems settled is that the seas, except for inland waters will remain divided in four zones. The first three ones are placed under sovereignty, within a limit of exercise progressively extended.

1st and 2nd) in the coastal waters and the contiguous area, the sovereignty of the coastal state is recognized, respectively as far as 12 and 24 nautical miles away from the coasts - included the coasts of islands and archipelagos. Nevertheless, this sovereignty will suffer a few restrictions for conservation of non-renewable resources and protection against pollutions. On the other hand, the coastal State cannot obstruct, the free (peaceful) navigation of other states, a well known rule.

3rd) a third area, a now one, called an economic exclusion zone, but already widely used as such, extends to 200 miles the rights of the coastal State to explore and exploit the resources of the sea. The coastal State, as the owner, must preserve the living resources and see to their maximum utilization, with access being given to other States. Compensation will be paid to States having owned exploitations and to the developing, neighboring countries.

4th) the open sea, traditionally, is considered as free, for any utilization, within the limits decided by the Conventions and general international law.

B) SEABED - The rules of the seabed and underground, in the new projects, are separated into two different kinds of proposals, with totally different goals.

On one side, the ownership of coastal sovereignty, with the use of the continental plateau is strengthened by admitting a continental margin which can be larger than the economic zone.

On the other side, the only project to be discussed at the 11th session includes about sixty articles concerning the organization of a zone whose natural, mineral resources will be the common heritage of humanity.

An international organization called the Enterprise will be entitled to organize the exploitation of the resources of the zone. It will be placed under an INTERNATIONAL AUTORITY in charge of distributing the benefits provided by the Common Heritage ; it will sponsor research and fight pollution.

We can immediately see what criticism mundialists will voice :

1) They protest against the domination of coastal imperialism which reduces the space of freedom in the seas and favors the countries that, with the system of island and archipelago zones, can enlarge their realms much more than in the past, in an enormous way.

2) They wish that in compensation the parallel system of the Enterprise, established with so much difficulty during the negotiations of the Conference, in competition with the private enterprises, be adopted and implemented.

The unexpected replacement of the American delegation, just before the last phase of the Conference, by the new Administration, might mean, in that field, a possible backing position.

Mundialists will remain skeptical and attentive, determined to call on public opinion. The AUTHORITY is the proof of the surging of a new world order for the law of the Sea. Are we near the time when we can applaud the birth of a World Institution with limited, but effective powers ?






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