Spotlight: South China Sea and Ocean Governance

On Tuesday, 12 July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague handed down its ruling in dispute between the Philippines and China regarding the South China Sea. The landmark arbitration concerned the rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are parties. China contested the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal and subsequently refused to participate in the arbitration. Although binding only on China and the Philippines, the seminal judgement will have major repercussions for all the states around the South China Sea and the international law of the sea in general. 

Today’s ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is a milestone for the governance of the South China Sea and international law of the sea. The arbitral award finds numerous breaches of international law by China, and in doing so pierces many holes in China’s expansive claims commonly known as the “nine-dash line”. For the Philippines, the next challenge is to translate this court victory into a building block for a multilateral solution for the South China Sea. This is the time to come together with its ASEAN partners and invite China to discuss a common future for the South China sea as a shared space of peace, commerce, and sustainable oceans governance.

Dr. Joris Larik, Senior Researcher

Following this development and related issues closely, The Hague Institute has already provided analysis in several instances.

Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to Rule in South China Sea Case
Dr. Joris Larik spoke to AFP about the upcoming court ruling on 12 July. The PCA ruling involves a highly-watched case brought by the Philippines challenging China’s claims to much of the strategic waterway.

South China Sea arbitration before the PCA
Dr. Joris Larik, Senior Researcher at The Hague Institute, spoke to Phoenix TV Hong Kong about the October 2015 ruling on jurisdiction by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case between the Philippines and China concerning the South China Sea. Dr. Larik explained the legal aspects of the case, commenting also on China’s position in the arbitration and what influence the decision will have going forward.

South China Sea Dispute
On 10 July 2015, Dr. Joris Larik discussed on CCTV the proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration concerning the dispute in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines.

Oceans Governance and International Law of the Sea: Closing the Gaps
The oceans of the world are ‘common pool resources’ which require protection to maintain sustainable practices by the various stakeholders involved in the use and exploitation of the oceans. One way in which this has been done is through international agreements concluded under the auspices of the United Nations, such as the United Nations Convention for Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA). It is the declared goal of the UN to achieve universal participation in these agreements. However, important gaps and shortcomings remain in this domain.

Integrating Oceans Governance into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
2015 marked the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have been criticized for being mainly a social agenda, thereby neglecting environmental concerns. While one of the MDGs focused on environmental sustainability, a maritime dimension was largely lacking. By contrast, the post-2015 development agenda, adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, puts environmental issues front and center—including the world’s oceans.

Geopolitics and Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean
Policy Brief | August 2014
As geopolitical power shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific, policy-makers in the European Union (EU) ought to pay closer attention to the vast maritime region that lies in between: the Indian Ocean.

China-Japan Dispute Over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands?
Policy Brief | December 2012
This policy brief outlines the maritime territorial dispute between China, Taiwan and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and provides recommendations to resolve the impasse.

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