Law of the Sea



The tryst of AALCO with the legal regime of the law of the sea began in 1957. Two issues of the law of the sea were brought onto its work table at its very first session, namely, “Law relating to the Regime of the High Seas including Questions relating to the rights to seabed and subsoil in open sea” (raised by Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India) and “Law of the Territorial Sea” (raised by Ceylon). However, it was slightly late in the date for the Organization to make any impact on the Geneva Conference on the Law of the Sea, slated for 1958. However, AALCO played a very important role, particularly during 1968-1982, in facilitating effective Asian-African participation in the international negotiations triggered by Maltese Ambassador Arvid Pardo’s speech at the UN General Assembly in 1967.

The agenda item “The Law of the Sea” was taken up for consideration by AALCO at the initiative of the Government of Indonesia in 1970. Since then, it has consistently been considered as one of the crucial components of the agenda at each of the Organization’s Annual Sessions. New concepts such as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Archipelago States and Rights of Land Locked States were developed and deliberated upon in AALCO’s Annual Sessions. These concepts were later codified in the UNCLOS.

Since the adoption of the Convention in 1982, AALCO’s Work Programme was oriented towards assisting Member States in their bid towards becoming functioning signatories to UNCLOS. As of 3 May 2023 168 States are parties to the UNCLOS. Forty-two AALCO Member States figure in that list. With the entry into force of the Convention in 1994, institutions envisaged by the legal regime began taking shape. The AALCO Secretariat prepared studies monitoring these developments.

The AALCO Secretariat, at the Organization’s Annual Sessions, has continuously been reporting on the progress of work in the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), the Meeting of States Parties to the UNCLOS and other related developments. In order to adequately respond to the rapidly evolving challenges in international law, AALCO has remained steadfast in its efforts to decipher the nascent issues vis-à-vis the law of the seas, and to further peruse the interlink of the law of the sea with other concerns, e.g., those pertaining to the environment, exploitation of mineral resources, etc.

The engagement of AALCO with the subject of the law of the sea has been on the topic of marine biodiversity. The topic of marine biodiversity presents to AALCO the opportunity, firstly, to be a forum for inspiring debates and discussions on the topic from an Asian-African perspective by inviting its constituent Member States to share their legal and socio-political views on the topics; and secondly, to strive to contribute to the treaty-making process under the UNCLOS by constituting and setting in motion the envisaged AALCO Open-ended Working Group on BBNJ, an undertaking disrupted by the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic.