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Category: UNCLOS

Common Oceans: The Vision of Elisabeth Mann Borgese

The people of the earth [have] agreed that the advancement of man in spiritual excellence and physical welfare is the common goal of mankind...that therefore the age of nations must end, and the era of humanity begin.

           —Preamble to the Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution

 Elisabeth Mann Borgese (24 April 1918 – 8 February 2002) was a strong-willed woman. She had to come out from under the shadow of both her father, the German writer and Nobel laureate Thomas Mann, and her husband, Italian literary critic and political analyst Giuseppe Antonio Borgese.

 Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain was a monument of world literature between the two World Wars, and Mann felt that he represented the best of German culture against the uncultured hordes of the Nazis.  He took himself and his role very seriously, believing that his family existed basically to facilitate his thinking and writing.

G.A. Borgese regularly lectured at various universities on the evils of Mussolini. A leading literary critic and professor in Milan, he left Italy for the United States in 1931 when Mussolini announced that an oath of allegiance to the Fascist State would be required of all Italian professors. For Borgese, with a vast culture including the classic Greeks, the Renaissance Italians, and the 19th-century nationalist writers, Mussolini was an evil caricature which too few Americans recognized as a destructive force in his own right, and not just as the fifth wheel of Hitler's armed car.

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.

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.

Law of the Sea - "it's time to take our seat at the table"

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) had a meeting about U.S. Ocean Governance on March 8, 2010.  The meeting, which began as a general ocean governance discussion, quickly became focused on the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Moderator, Scott Borgerson of CFR at one point said "this wasn't intended originally to be the Law of the Sea party, but as the author of the report outside the door titled The National Interests and the Law of the Sea, I can't lie that it doesn't warm my heart a little bit."

The meeting began with a showing of the Council on Foreign Relation new interactive Web Oceans Governance Monitor.  CLICK HERE to watch the remarkable video.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island stated: "As the wonderful video said, the oceans really are the dominant resource of our planet, and we've paid far too little attention to it. The economic theory of the tragedy of the commons is being worked out on the ocean at a massive scale, and we see it in the changes that the ocean is undergoing. It's rising. It's warming. It's enduring biological changes as it rises and warms. It is continuing to be bombarded with pollution, and it's facing chemical changes. That's a lot all at once for this resource"

Admiral Thad Allen, the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, emphasized that "rules of conduct and how we interact with each other on the water" are "incrementally changed every time there is a new convention that is ratified through IMO, every time a piece of domestic legislation is passed in any country or a time a new set of regulations is issued in the United States. We have a lot of pending work. [we] should start first with ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty."