Law, Force and Diplomacy at Sea

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The Return of Gunboat Diplomacy in the South China Sea

Therefore, the Rules of Procedure adopted by the Conference in departed from the pattern normally applicable to United Nations conferences for the taking of decisions. Before any substantive matter could be put to a vote, a determination had to be made by a two-thirds majority of representatives present and voting, including a majority of the States participating in that session of the Conference, that all efforts at reaching agreement had been exhausted.

Although UNCLOS III did not invent consensus as a rule of decision-making, it was the first major international conference that decided to rely on this rule and developed a consensus technique that was, and still is, a unique contribution to global decision-making. Another novel procedure that was introduced at UNCLOS III which represented a departure from the traditional procedures of United Nations intergovernmental codification conferences at that time was the convening of a conference without a draft negotiating text.

Faced with a great number of proposals and variants, the first tasks of the Conference included the reduction as much as possible of the number of texts before it on each subject or issue.

In addition, many different interest groups composed of like-minded States based on mainly geographic interests, emerged on a number of issues. In , at the request of the Conference, the Chairmen of the three main Committees each prepared a single negotiating text covering the subjects entrusted to the respective Committee, which together constituted the Informal Single Negotiating Text. Subsequently, the President of the Conference submitted a text on the subject of settlement of disputes.

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Although acting at the request of the Conference, the President and Chairmen were under no instructions as to the substance of the texts and were free to choose from among the various proposals or draft their own text. Subsequent revised single negotiating texts were prepared by the President and Chairmen in a similar manner and were regarded as improved drafts and as reflecting trends in the Conference.

The power vested in them was enormous since it was not easy for delegations to subsequently alter the text and the decision whether to revise it or not was also largely left to the President and Chairmen—a practice that was unprecedented in the United Nations. It was agreed that the Collegium would make no revision to the text unless the proposed change had received widespread and substantial support.

The Conference was thus able to ensure that the package remained cohesive until such time as all the pieces fell into place. In April , the Conference determined that all efforts at reaching consensus had been exhausted.


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At the end of that session, at the request of the United States of America, a recorded vote on the draft convention and resolutions took place. The draft convention was adopted on 30 April by votes to 4 against, with 17 abstentions.

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On the day it opened for signature—10 December —it received signatures from States. Such overwhelming support had never before been demonstrated so concretely on the first day that a treaty opened for signature. Moreover, this consensus technique has continued to be applied in negotiations on oceans and law of the sea issues in the Meetings of States Parties to the Convention and in the General Assembly of the United Nations.

It was adopted, by consensus, by the General Assembly in Blanchet and B. Dard, Statue of Liberty , trans.

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The Persistence of Gunboat Diplomacy | SpringerLink

Bernard A. Weisberger New York: American Heritage, p. Since US military ships and aircraft have exercised their rights and freedoms in all oceans against the objectionable claims of more than thirty-five countries at the rate of some thirty to forty per year. See Captain G. II, no. Birnie, op. Adams, Secret Armies London: Hutchinson, pp. See the Chronological Appendix. Even today, a few governments are prepared to take drastic action. In a court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced two convicted pirates to the amputation of an arm and a leg The Times , 12 March Grove, op.

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