“Like human rights, marine rights are changing our core values.”

Efforts are underway to develop a declaration of maritime rights that grants the legal status of the ocean and the fundamental rights to be protected, as well as the concept of human and natural rights. Michelle Bender, the founder of the OceanRights framework, explains exactly how the declaration works.

It was during Monaco Ocean Week on Thursday 24thth In March, the Ocean Race-sponsored Relay 4 Nature was held at the Yacht Club in Monaco.

Table question: why do we need to give the ocean legal rights, and what does the declaration of ocean rights really look like?

“For the way our western system is built, we have to talk about rights,” says Michelle Bender, founder and creator of the OceanRights framework. “This is a rights-based system, and unfortunately, if something goes wrong, it’s an object, resource, property, or utility. We need to cherish nature and change the way we treat it. Rights make it happen. One way. “

Vendors are experts in environmental law and policy at the Center for Global Law in the United States. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to promoting this new paradigm internationally.

According to the Principles of Rights of Nature, ecosystems have the right to legal personality and therefore the right to protect themselves in court from harms such as environmental degradation caused by certain development projects and climate change.

The Rights of Nature framework recognizes that ecosystems have the right to exist, prosper, regenerate their vital cycles and evolve naturally without human disruption. In addition, if an ecosystem is declared “subject to rights,” the ecosystem has the legal representation of a guardian who acts for them and in their best interests.

“We are really based on global momentum,” says the vendor. “Nature’s rights now exist in some form or form in more than 20 countries. Not only at the world level, but also at the national, constitutional and even part of the judicial level. Human well-being and human rights are natural. It is this understanding that it is embedded in and dependent on nature – air, clean water, work, our lives. The right of nature is to recognize this reality in the legal system. “

Relay4Nature discussion panel featuring former UN Ambassador to the United Nations Ronald Jumeau of Saychel, Michelle Bender, Marine Campaign Director, and Dr. Antonio Di Natale, a marine biologist.Photo: Monaco Life

Michelle Bender points out Ecuador, the world’s first country to recognize the rights of nature in the Constitution in 2008, and the rights of citizens to protect and protect nature.

“I’ve learned a lot from Ecuador because it’s been more than a decade since the rights of nature were included in the Constitution. To be honest, to implement this, as seen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Has some challenges. We have these aspirations, but in order to put them into practice, look at how they can be enforced within national policy, the judicial system. Must … Ecuador shows how these decision-making standards and governance principles can be built. “

Vendors give examples of the precautionary principle, which she says is a staple of environmental law. “Within the Ecuadorian Environmental Code, they have evolved this principle as follows:There is no doubtFrom’,’If in doubt, be careful’to’If in doubt, make mistakes on the natural side’. This is an evolution of the principle that preventative and restrictive measures need to be taken in the absence of scientific certainty. “

The second question to consider is criteria: what is a healthy ocean? What are the significant negative effects? “We need to consider how to define what a healthy ocean is based on what it needs to be healthy. It must be able to be restored and kept consistent. not.”

Finally, Vendor says, the sea needs to be given a voice and a table seat. “More than 20 ecosystems have already been removed from ordinary property and designated as legal entities subject to rights,” says the vendor. “Many of these are found not only in Colombian rivers, national parks and the Colombian Amazon, but also in New Zealand’s Wanganui, India’s Ganga and Yamuna rivers.”

The New Zealand case is unique in that Congress has finalized the Theawatupua Act and appointed two river guardians. One is the representative of the Maori indigenous people and the other is the representative of the government, perhaps coordinating two different worldviews.

By giving a voice to the sea, it creates a bond of new managers. It is the duty of the representative to respect the intrinsic values ​​of the ecosystem and speak on behalf of the interests and needs of the ecosystem. “If we’re talking about the fairness of all stakeholders, all the representatives for shaping the future, the ocean needs to be one of those stakeholders,” says Vendor. ..

Creating a Declaration of Marine Rights

Taking New Zealand as an example, vendors take the first step in establishing a science and technology agency to help review decisions and impact assessments and determine how and to what extent to protect areas outside the country’s jurisdiction. It states that there is.

Indigenous peoples, small island states, and communities at the forefront of the climate crisis must be included in this group, she adds.

“The concepts of marine rights and natural rights are what they have a deep understanding of,” says Vendor. “They have a strong relationship with the ocean. It is the source and ancestor of their lives. They have customary law and customary law that recognize their responsibility to be the manager and manager of the ocean. , This helped guide local governments of human activity in a more reciprocal and harmonious way. We can learn a lot from them, but be careful not to treat knowledge properly. While doing that in a very ethical way. “

Photo by Rishi, Unsplash

She further adds: “We really liken the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because we have these most important rights, but they are also aspirations and understandings. The focus is on what our values ​​are and the shift in our core values. One way to see it is in principle. For governance that makes us accountable. What are the principles? “

Giving the ocean legal rights may help protect the ocean from injuries under the law, but how does that translate into reality? So far, giving the ecosystem legal status has been largely symbolic, and the success of the proceedings is primarily based on the proceedings framework and the plaintiffs’ interests. However, as the number of proceedings grows, we hope that opposition to projects that can destroy certain ecosystems will set a precedent for national and local governments to work on biodiversity conservation.

How about the law of the sea?

The sea is not completely unprotected from a legal point of view. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed by 117 states in 1982 and entered into force in 1994, exists. However, this is limited to the geographical jurisdiction and use of coastal countries between them. Conservation of the marine environment and its natural resources.

According to Michelle Bender, UNCLOS is an outdated reference focused on national sovereignty, the right to exploit, and the freedom of the sea.

“Article 192 imposes obligations on the State to protect and protect the marine environment, but there is no framework for implementing or enforcing this provision, and the State is responsible, especially in areas outside the jurisdiction of the State. We can’t let you. We are in the process of negotiating to agree on a treaty to protect biodiversity on the open sea, and we are heading in the right direction, but we still think our efforts are different. increase.”

Monaco is part of this alternative to promote a new treaty on the high seas. As a member of the intergovernmental conference It contributed to the 4th and last session This month, we will finalize the details of the International Legally Binding Agreement (BBNJ) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of waters outside the jurisdiction of the country.

Nevertheless, Michelle Bender sees the Declaration of Marine Rights as a completely separate, fundamentally essential set of rules.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights will create a new, comprehensive framework rather than being integrated into existing agreements like UNCLOS,” she explains. “Earth-centric governance puts human society in a natural system. It will bring about fundamental changes in the values ​​and ethics that underlie our law, governance and economic systems. We are asking ourselves what it takes for the ocean to be prosperous and healthy and how to better manage human activity in a mutually ecologically sustainable way. “

Next step

A series of innovation workshops will be held to define the principles of the Declaration of Maritime Rights, with stakeholders and representatives, including lawyers and scientists, as well as community members, indigenous peoples, government members, stakeholders and proactive. People who are active in the area gather. I am involved in marine conservation. The purpose is for the principles to be agreed by September 2023.

Second, the Declaration must be ratified by the State at the UN level, ideally by 2030. Hopefully it will be a year when the campaign to protect 30% of the ocean will bear fruit. Currently, only 2.7% of the world’s oceans are completely protected from commercial fishing, mining, oil drilling, and other destructive activities.

Michelle Vendor acknowledges that the implementation of the Maritime Rights Declaration, its enforcement, and the definition of individual country commitments are the most difficult aspects. “Like human rights, it will probably take some time, but we have to put the ocean at the center of governance and ask ourselves how we can change our relationship with nature.”

Discussions will continue at the United Nations Maritime Conference in Lisbon on the 25thth June.

Photo by Janko Ferlič of Unsplash “Like human rights, marine rights are changing our core values.”

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