The world has a “once in a lifetime” chance to protect the high seas from exploitation, warned scientists and environmentalists, as negotiators meet at the UN headquarters in New York this week to hammer out a new treaty on the oceans.[ More ]
The author argues the Senate should reject the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea because it gives too much authority and power to the United Nations.[ More ]
The author argues the Senate should reject the Law of the Sea treaty as it is " one more step towards a system of global governance under which U.S. sovereignty would be subordinated to an international system managed by an unelected, self-perpetuating form of bureaucratic aristocracy that cares little for democratic traditions."[ More ]
Social conservatives—what are near and dear to their hearts? Preserving moral values and the moral standing of the United States. And once again, we come back to the question of the Law of the Sea Convention and the international institutions that it would create, as to whether they would behave consistendy with the highest aspirations humans are called to achieve. To put it mildly, the United Nations system is not a paragon of virtue. We have seen things like the "Oil for Food scandal;" we have seen things like U.N. peacekeepers exploiting women in African peacekeeping missions. We have seen the adoption of resolutions saying that Zionism is a form of racism. All of these are things that have been essential elements of the ongoing United Nations system of which this treaty is a part.
It should not surprise anybody that one of the most prominent social conservatives that ever served in the Senate, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, took it as a personal responsibility to see that the United States did not join this Convention. He was successful during his tenure in doing that, and I think he made very compelling arguments regarding not just this particular institution, but also about the broader problems with the United Nations system as a whole.'"
This brings us to the keystone in the arch of opposition. The treaty is officially titled the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. And anything that bears the imprimatur of the United Nations is immediately and unconditionally dead on arrival in a certain tranche of senatorial offices. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), for example, has suggested the United Nations is “ineffective, they’ve been wasteful, there’s corruption, and there is deep concern that there is a lot of anti-American sentiment.”
Here’s the thing: The United Nations has virtually no role in management, implementation, or execution of this treaty. It remains in the convention’s title only because the treaty was initially negotiated at the United Nations.
The treaty itself does not establish U.N. oversight of any aspect of its implementation. It creates separate management bodies, like the International Seabed Authority, which work to regulate multinational operations in international waters without a direct link to the organization that has attracted so much vitriol from the protectionist wing of the conservative movement.
Apparently, conservative conspiracy theorists’ fears about the United Nations’s purported push for creation of a world government are stronger than their ties to Big Oil, corporate America, and military contractors. As Secretary Clinton put it, “Whatever arguments may have existed for delaying U.S. accession no longer exist and truly cannot even be taken with a straight face.”
The lack of support for this treaty among some GOP lawmakers is stunning. It shows once again that conservatives’ ideological opposition to the United Nations is getting in the way of smart planning for our natural resources.
In their letter to Senator Reid, the thirty-one signers were concerned with subjugating U.S. sovereignty “to a supranational government that is chartered by the United Nations.”10 Leading conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly described the conservative perspective on the treaty as follows:
LOST [UNCLOS] is the globalists’ dream bill [because] it would put the United Nations in a de facto world government that rules the world’s oceans under the pretense that they belong to the ‘common heritage of mankind.’ That is global speak for allowing the United Nations and its affiliated or- ganizations to carry out a massive unprecedented redistribution of wealth from the United States to other countries.11
This perspective ignores the fact that the United States had been in- volved in negotiations on the wording of UNCLOS since the time of Presi- dent Nixon.12 In 1983, during the Reagan administration, the United States supported the convention with the exception of the deep seabed provisions. President Reagan stated that the United States would recognize the rights of other states in the waters off their coasts as reflected in the convention.13 After President Reagan refused to endorse ratification due to the deep seabed issues, additional negotiations in the United Nations took place, resulting in the “Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS,” dated 28 July 1994, which satisfied the Reagan conditions. After a yearlong inter-agency review, the Bush administration concluded that all of the concerns raised by President Reagan were addressed by the 1994 Amendments.14 Thus, rather than UNCLOS being forced on the United States by the United Nations, it was instead negotiated with the full participation of the United States, and later specifically amended to answer the objections of President Reagan.
Contrary to the isolationists’ belief, the United Nations is not involved in implementing, administering, or enforcing UNCLOS. The convention not the United Nations, establishes a number of distinct bodies, separate from the United Nations, to handle specific issues. These include the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf15 and the International Sea Bed Authority.16 The Authority is composed of three bodies: the Assembly, the Council, and the Secretariat.17 Each member nation has one representa- tive in the Assembly.18 The Council is a body of thirty-six persons. As the largest economy in terms of gross national product, if the United States ratified UNCLOS, the United States would have a permanent place on the Council.19 The Council nominates persons for the Secretariat and the As- sembly votes on them.20 An agency called the Enterprise, which works in deep seabed mining, has not been called into action, as mining has yet to start.21 The final organization is the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.22 The Tribunal consists of twenty-one members elected by the parties to the Convention and is based in Hamburg, Germany. While UNCLOS establishes various bodies, they are distinct from and independent of the United Nations, which is not involved in administering UNCLOS.
A handful of opponents continue to voice their concerns about the impact of acces- sion on U.S. sovereignty and security. Doug Bandow, a special assistant to President Reagan in the 1980s who served on the U.S. Law of the Sea delegation, continues to call for the scuttling of the Treaty.93 Bandow cautions against what he refers to as a “redistributionist bent” embodied in Part XI in the form of a portion of deep seabed royalties being distributed to mining and nonmining nations alike. He also notes that the United States ought to stand against the creation of “new oceans bureacracy.”94 At the same time he derides the advocates’ call for Treaty accession as a means of manifesting U.S. leadership. Leadership, suggests Bandow, can be illustrated just as easily by saying no as by saying yes.
Bandow’s arguments fail to carry the same weight today as they did ten years ago. The oceans bureaucracy, as he calls it, is not a prospect that might be stemmed. The Law of the Sea Tribunal is up and running. Judges have been appointed and are hearing and adjudicating cases. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is estab- lished and employing Convention principles as required by the Convention.95 As noted above, the United States is currently engaged in mapping its own continental shelf em- ploying Convention principles.96
The Law of the Sea Treaty and its agencies are indisputably linked to the UN, both substantively and organizationally. What benefits one, benefits the other.
On the substantive plane, other UN agencies routinely promote treaties and regulations designed to build on and reinforce LOST’s importance and the authority of its agencies. A recent example is instructive: A report of a UN review conference on progress between 2004 and 2006 in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity “recognizes the United Nations General Assembly’s central role in addressing issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction.”
The report goes on to “recall that United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/30 emphasized the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and reaffirmed that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and that its integrity needs to be maintained, as recognized also by the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development....” (Emphasis added throughout.)
At a practical level, the ties between the UN and LOST are no less palpable. For example: All staff associated with LOST bodies are paid by the UN system. Day-to- day monitoring of activities regulated by LOST is conducted by UN staff employees. Employees of LOST-related agencies participate in the UN pension plan. And, under the terms of the Treaty, the UN Secretary General plays a direct role in choosing the fifth arbiter for five-person special arbitral tribunals that will hear disputes between parties to LOST. He also is responsible for convening conferences to amend the Treaty.
LOST’s Transnationalist architects have long sought to build up supranational agencies. This treaty allows them to do so in unprecedented ways by: conferring on LOST “organs” responsibility for regulating seven-tenths of the planet (i.e., the world’s oceans and the vast natural resources to be found in and below them); levying what are tantamount to international taxes; and imposing mandatory and un-appealable decisions in disputes that may arise involving parties to the Treaty.
To date, the full, malevolent potential of the Law of the Sea Treaty has been more in prospect than in evidence. Should the United States accede to LOST, however, it is predictable that the Treaty’s agencies will: wield their powers in ways that will prove very harmful to American interests; intensify the web of sovereignty-sapping obligations and regulations being promulgated by this and other UN entities; and advance inexorably the emergence of supranational world government.
It may be that the only check on such undesirable outcomes is for the United States to remain a non-state party to LOST. The latitude such an arrangement affords America to observe Treaty provisions that are unobjectionable – without being bound by those that are – may not only be preferable for this country and its vital interests. It could also help spare other nations the less free, less prosperous and more onerous international order that will emerge if the Transnationalists have their way on the Law of the Sea Treaty.