United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called "Constitution of the oceans", has 161 parties, including 135 coastal states, and sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. It established three institutions: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea , the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf . The work under the auspices of the Law of the Sea and the Commission on Sustainable Development has become more closely linked in recognition of the importance of oceans and marine life in achieving sustainable development goals. In addition, several United Nations agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have undertaken work in order to promote sustainable ocean development and the protection of marine resources.

Intergovernmental Processes

(1) Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP):

The United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP) was established in 2002 following a decision taken at the seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to enhance the effectiveness of the annual review of developments relating to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea undertaken by the General Assembly. It has since then improved coordination and cooperation among States. For more information click here

(2) Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction:

Was established by the General Assembly in 2004 to address gaps in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It examines issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. In 2011, the Working Group recommended that a process be initiated by the General Assembly, with a view to ensuring that the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction effectively addresses issues by identifying gaps and ways forward, including through the implementation of existing instruments and the possible development of a multilateral agreement under UNCLOS. For more information click here

(3) Regular process:

The Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects (Regular process), was established by the General Assembly following a decision taken at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to strengthen the regular scientific assessment of the state of the marine environment in order to enhance the scientific basis for policymaking. In 2005, the General Assembly launched the start-up phase to the Regular Process, called the "assessment of assessments", which concluded in 2009. In 2008, the General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole to recommend a course of action for the Regular Process. At its sixty-fifth session in 2010, the General Assembly decided that the Regular Process would be an intergovernmental process and set up an initial programme of work. For more information click here

Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs