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Category: Law of the Sea Treaty

Global Ocean Commission: "Our Oceans Are in Decline"

"Plastic is everywhere in the ocean."

"87% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted."

These are just two of a number of very troubling statements concerning our world’s oceans, as outlined in a report released last Tuesday by the Global Ocean Commission. The report, which comprehensively details the issues that pose a threat to the health of our oceans, asks that countries cease turning a blind eye to the immeasurable harm that they inflict regularly. It demands that countries make the rectification of our oceans’ health an immediate priority, or else face the risk of causing irreversible damage.

The report cites a rising demand for resources, new technological advances, the depletion of fish stocks, climate change, and weak high seas governance as the most prominent reasons for the decline in the health of our oceans. It explains that the world’s immense growth in population-- reaching 7 billion people in November 2011-- has driven the demand for the ocean’s treasure trove of resources to naturally unsustainable levels. It warns that a failure to address climate change would have a calamitous effect on the world’s oceans, potentially wiping out as much as 60% of ocean species by 2050.

The report goes further than simply identifying the root causes of the ocean’s demise; it offers up a series of important steps, most notably Proposals 1 and 2, which would help remedy many of the ocean’s issues.

The Law of the Seize

8 June of each year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the Day of the Law of the Sea. However, according to my friend John Logue, who had participated with me as non-governmental organization representative in the long negotiations in New York and Geneva, it should be called “the Law of the Seize.”

What started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arivid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in August 1980 with a draft convention. It was a mixed bag of successes and disappointments, but that convention has now been ratified by 162 States.

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of particular significance. The greater part of the oceans has been considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership.  Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

World Citizen Thor Heyerdahl was one of those who called attention to the dangers of ocean pollution coming to Geneva to speak for world citizens during the Law of the Sea negotiations.  The oceans and the seas remind us that the planet and not the State should be our focus.  A holistic view of life arises from our interdependence as a species and our dependence on the life system of nature.  World citizens have stressed that a balanced, sustainable eco-system will only emerge if our political, economic and ethical policies coincide in building a more stable and more peaceful—in short, a more human—planet.

It's Time to Act: Visit our Indiegogo Campaign

People underestimate the negative effects that not ratifying treaties can have on our lives. It can limit the rights of women or people with disabilities. Non-ratification also limits the influence that the US has in international decision-making. By not being part of the Law of the Sea treaty, the US loses opportunities to have a voice in decisions that govern the world’s oceans; this is a major issue for the US as the country with one of the largest coast lines.

Shouldn’t we embrace women’s rights and rights of the disabled? How can we end conflicts like the Syrian war without an arms trade agreement? The opposition wholeheartedly contests all treaties, while most proponents will advocate only for one. That needs to end. We CAN fight back, but we need to do it together, through broad support for treaty ratification.

The War on International Law is gaining traction, and we need to work harder to stop it. recently launched a project on Indiegogo, a crowd funding site, to raise money for our campaign. We need to bring attention to the Arms Trade Treaty, the Women’s Equality Treaty (CEDAW), the Disability Treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and many others. The US has not ratified any of these crucial agreements, which has significant negative consequences for the US role in the world and for US citizens.

Our goals are simple: expose the opposition, identify the costs of this negative policy, and build a robust network of support that crosses traditional issue silos inside and outside the Beltway to reengage the US in adopting international law. We need your support in order to make this campaign a success.

Ds and Rs on Energy, the Environment, and Foreign Policy: Party Platforms 2012

Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have released their official party platforms for 2012, they can be compared side-by-side.  We've done all of the legwork for you and have summarized their main stances on a number of issues. Hyperlinks are included and they will take you to the pertinent section of that party's platform if you want to read the actual text.  

Update September 6: Changes made on the floor of the Democratic Convention have resulted in the platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli holding is a condition for any peace talks.

A Hoosier Laments Lugar Loss

Sen. Richard Lugar

It was a bad and sad day for Indiana on Tuesday. 

Senator Richard Lugar not only lost in the Republican primary; Tea Party extremists did their best to humiliate America's finest public servant.  A few even trespassed onto the senator's farm and put up the obnoxious "Retire Lugar" campaign signs that popped up like weeds across our state this spring.

Through his work on the school board and as Indianapolis mayor, Lugar set the stage for the remaking of the Indiana capital city into a major, world class city.  As senator, he made Indiana a better state, but also globally important. 

As an Indiana Republican, Senator Lugar made the party a powerhouse, but often saved the GOP from its worst excesses.  The man once known as Nixon's favorite mayor was now deemed too moderate for a strong majority of Indiana Republicans. 

Here is what some other, more graceful, Hoosiers posted on facebook on Tuesday night:

Kiel, Terre Haute, IN: Thanks for 36 years of representing Indiana well on a global stage, helping end apartheid and all of that.

Gabe, Columbus, IN: Lugar stood up to the hawks in the Reagan administration to demand the President break with the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.

Dave, Indianapolis, IN: Sad day for the hungry, a sad day for our nation. Democracy is about talking with one another, not shouting at others.

Stan, a former Carmel, IN teacher whose students got involved with AIDS activism: after this real-life civics lesson where kids learned their voice can make a difference, Senator Lugar made time to meet with me and a few of the students face-to-face to listen to our concerns. Thank you Senator Lugar for your grace, tact and statesmanship.

Lugar Loses and So Does the World

Sen. Richard Lugar

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his Republican primary yesterday to Tea Party backed conservative Richard Mourdock, after more than 35 years in the Senate. His defeat is not just a defeat for Lugar and his supporters, but a defeat for American national security and indeed the entire world. In the words of fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Senator John Kerry, "It will soon almost sound cliché to say that America is safer today because of Dick Lugar's 36 years of service in the Senate, but it really does bear repeating."

Lugar's challenger, Richard Mourdock, said in his victory speech, that his campaign was about ideas for the future of both the Republican Party and our nation as a whole. Unfortunately, Mourdock's win is part of a disturbing pattern of election victories for Tea Party ideas, of unilateralists over more moderate, internationally minded Republicans.

Partisanship used to end at our nations shores. Now, partisanship permeates Capitol Hill like a festering disease. It has become increasingly more difficult for non-partisan organizations, like, to find partners on both sides of the aisle who understand that international cooperation is essential to build a safer and more secure world. In our latest Congressional Report Card, House and Senate Democrats averaged an A-, while House Republicans averaged a D-. Senate Republicans fared worse than their House colleagues with an F. This is because we have lost internationally minded GOP friends like Lugar, Mike Castle, Jim Leach, Chuck Hagel and retiring Senator Olympia Snow. 

When political parties refuse to work together and compromise, it is impossible to have a strong and clear vision on foreign policy and national security, endangering our nation's safety. We're skating on thin ice.

Sec. Clinton Voices Support for Law of the Sea Treaty

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement earlier today calling for disputes between China and the Philippines over resources in the South China Sea to be resolved according to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The statement supports Philippine claims that they have the right to explore oil resources within 370 kilometers of their shore. Philippine officials allege Chinese naval vessels have interfered with such exploration, as Beijing asserts that they have historical rights to virtually all of the South China Sea. While the U.S. does not formally take sides in the competing claims of the two nations over the oil and mineral rich body of water, Clinton affirmed that no nation should be able to force its will through coercion or intimidation.

The administration's position is a strong endorsement of the international treaty, despite the fact that the Senate has yet to ratify the convention. It comes at a politically opportune time, as Senate leaders are considering new efforts to ratify UNCLOS. Access to the South China Sea is one of the strongest examples of the importance of the treaty, as one-third of the world's shipping travels through its waters, with huge oil and gas reserves under its seabed. China's attempts to unfairly dominate the South China Sea violate UNCLOS and should push the U.S. to get serious about ratifying the treaty.

US - UN Update at UNA

Last week I spoke to members of the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) who were preparing to lobby their members of Congress.  I was asked to give a 30,000 foot overview of the political climate on the Hill regarding the UN, an update on the U.S. role at the Human Rights Council and the status of ratification of the Law of the Sea convention, CEDAW and the Rights of the Child treaty.  Take a look at the presentation and let me know if you have any questions.

A New Start on Treaties

Getting two-thirds of the Senate to agree on anything is a daunting task. So it was no small feat when the Senate approved New START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, during its December lame duck session. New START was the first major international agreement passed by the Senate since the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997.

The United States is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to treaties. The U.S. government does a great job negotiating them. From the International Criminal Court to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, U.S. diplomats have forged very constructive compromises on major human rights and security agreements. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate has a history of letting these accords molder.  The Senate and the White House still have a long list of treaties that are overdue for ratification.

Much can be learned from the successful passage of this treaty. Here are seven lessons for policymakers to consider as they move forward.

Seven Lessons     

The Senate can ratify a treaty:  New START proved that the Senate can overcome its own inertia and support U.S. participation in international agreements. Only 37 current Senators were in office in 1997 when the CWC was ratified. The Senate’s leadership and its newer members now know that two-thirds of them can agree when it comes to important matters of national security.

An Off-the-Record No Grade Congress on Global Affairs

An Empty Senate Chamber

With the new year beginning, this is the time when would normally prepare our Congressional Report Card to rate members of Congress on global issue.  The CGS Report Card analyzes voting records on issues ranging from genocide prevention to nuclear nonproliferation to funding for the international affairs budget.

But this year, we've come to the sad conclusion that there isn't going to be a Report Card.  Why not?  Because Congress didn't do enough on record last year to warrant one.