7th Sea Dialogue

15:00 19/09/2021

On August 19th, 2021, the 7th Sea Dialogue entitled “Assessment of Emerging Maritime Issues from the Perspective of International Law” was virtually held by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV), the British Embassy to Vietnam and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation (KAS).

Over 250 national consultants, foreign experts and representatives from Central and local agencies, delegates from diplomatic missions to Hanoi and the media took part in the event. The dialogue was an opportunity for the stakeholders to analyze the interpretation and implementation of international law on freedom and safety of navigation as well as to assess the consequences and challenges of the sea level rise from the perspective of international law. This was also a forum for the stakeholders to share the practices of coastal countries and to propose solutions for Vietnam. 

In the opening speech, DAV’s Deputy Director, Dr. Nguyen Hung Son emphasized that the sea level rise and the safety of navigation not only become security issues but also entail a number of legal and environmental impacts, and they directly affect the livelihoods of coastal dwellers. Dr. Son also said the DAV wishes to promote dialogue on emerging legal issues in order to raise public awareness and understanding and reach consensus on the interpretation and application of international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS; thereby strengthening the foundation for marine cooperation activities in the region. The DAV hopes that through the dialogue, the stakeholders will propose initiatives in accordance with international law to promote cooperation in these issues, Dr. Son added. 

British Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam, Marcus Winsley highlighted the 1982 UNCLOS as a foundation for ocean governance. He said the UK considers freedom of navigation to be of utmost importance to national interests as its trade with Asia relies on key regional sea routes. The UK also shares the same concerns with countries, especially Pacific island nations over the sea level rise, the diplomatic said. 

Mr. Florian Constantin Feyerabend, a delegate from the KAS in Vietnam, affirmed that Germany always attaches great importance to commerce and export, so the country considers safety and freedom of maritime trade routes to be vital interests. Furthermore, Germany supports a rules-based order and pledges to protect international law, he said. Mr. Feyerabend also expressed his concerns about challenges facing the Indo-Pacific’s sea lanes as well as tensions due to increasing maritime disputes in the region. 

Participants at the event shared the impacts of the sea level rise on coastal countries in the region and the world. Recognizing the impact and challenges of this phenomenon, “the sea level rise and international law” has become a topic of discussion in the agenda of the United Nations International Law Commission. The experts said that the sea level rise poses challenges from the perspective of international law of the sea such as changing points, baselines or possibly causing islands to disappear, which in turn can affect maritime boundaries and the exploitation of resources by countries in the seas.  They underscored the importance of ensuring the stability of international law and suggested measures and scenarios to cope with and adapt to the sea level rise from national, regional and international perspectives. 

According to the scholars, freedom, safety and security of navigation have been stipulated in important international conventions such as the 1982 UNCLOS and guidelines within the framework of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). However, for different goals and interests, countries have numerous differences in the interpretation and application of the provisions of navigational rights, such as the right of innocent passage of military vessels within their territorial sea, military activities in the exclusive economic zones of coastal states... The scholars expressed their interest in the East Sea, the intersection of many important sea routes, and concerns over excessive marine claims that run counter to the 1982 UNCLOS and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)'s ruling on the Philippines' lawsuit in 2016. They stressed the need to continue maintaining a rules-based order at sea in the Indo-Pacific and suggested that ASEAN agree on navigational rights.

The Sea Dialogue is one of the key international cooperation programs by the DAV. To date, the DAV has successfully organized 7 dialogues and received many positive responses from the participants. Many quality publications about fishing cooperation, marine governance in the East Sea, plastic wastes disposal, enhancing ASEAN cooperation in the East Sea, and the EU’s sustainable development experience have been published.

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