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Posted Aug. 2, 2011

UVA Center for Oceans Law and Policy's 35th Annual Conference Focuses on Maritime Border Diplomacy

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Hasjim Djalal, a member of the Indonesian Maritime Counsel and a former Indonesian ambassador to Canada and Germany, spoke at the conference in Bali.

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Mary Wood

A group of international experts recently examined how diplomacy could alleviate tensions raised by maritime border disputes during the 35th annual Conference on the Law of the Sea and Ocean Policy.

Government officials, scholars and representatives from related organizations attended the international conference, which was co-sponsored by the University of Virginia's Center for Oceans Law and Policy and the Republic of Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 22-24 in Bali, Indonesia. The National University of Singapore's Centre for International Law and the Korean Maritime Institute were associate sponsors.   

The theme of the conference, maritime border diplomacy, was particularly timely because of the escalating tension between China and Vietnam over their territorial claims in the South China Sea just one week before the event, said conference organizer Myron Nordquist, associate director of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy. The conflict involves long-standing competing claims between Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam over groups of islands, sea beds and waters on the South China Sea.

"The parties to the disputes must realize that the outbreak of the conflicts, especially armed conflict, will not settle the disputes and will not bring benefits to either parties," said keynote speaker Hasjim Djalal, a member of the Indonesian Maritime Counsel and a former Indonesian ambassador to Canada and Germany. "The parties must realize that the solution of the disputes would be more in their interest than in their continued prolongation."

Djalal offered lessons from his experience as a diplomat, including that nations should not try to appeal to public opinion because it can further entrench the positions of both sides.

"Preventive diplomacy should be undertaken by all parties who have interests in the solution of the problems, either regionally or internationally," he said. "Solutions that take into account only national as well as regional interests but ignore the interests of states outside the region would not be an effective long-term solution."

Indonesian Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Triyono Wibowo opened the conference with a lecture on Indonesia’s methods for its maritime border diplomacy, such as promoting cooperation and preventive measures to avoid conflicts, especially in the South China Sea.

Following Wibowo's talk, panelists examined the context for maritime border diplomacy, archipelagic resources in the South East Asia region, the marine environment, unresolved boundaries and dispute-settlement mechanisms.

Attendees included prominent judges such as Rüdiger Wolfrum of Germany, former president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and newly elected International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea judge Jin-Hyun PAIK of Korea. Other government officials, scholars and private practitioners with expertise on ocean law came from Indonesia, the United States, Australia, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.  

Hassan Wirajuda, a current member of the Indonesian Presidential Advisory Board and a former minister for foreign affairs of Indonesia who also has an S.J.D. from the University of Virginia, delivered the other keynote address.

Wirajuda said the key to creating order in the ocean, especially regarding maritime borders, is for states to conform to what they agreed on in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, which he described as a package deal that balanced all states’ interests. He said states need to return to a dialogue and intensified cooperation to solve maritime disputes in Northeast and Southeast Asia.

The Center for Oceans Law and Policy's annual conference provides a forum for experts to exchange views, network, and discuss recent developments and emerging issues on ocean law and policy. Prior conferences have explored changes in the Arctic environment, freedom of navigation, maritime security and marine scientific research.  The proceedings from the Bali conference will be published by the center early next year as "Maritime Border Diplomacy" through Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

The center will hold its next annual conference, co-hosted by the Dalhousie University Marine and Environmental Law Institute, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in June 2012. Participants will examine the regulation of continental shelf development in light of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico.