Ocean as common good of humanity

There’s but One Ocean, global and endless.

The great current that runs through the Ocean, sometimes on the surface where it’s warmed, sometimes in the depths where it becomes cold, joins all of it together. It takes a thousand years for a drop of our One Ocean to flow all around the world.

The Ocean is a treasure for Humanity.

Thanks to its activity and its interaction with the air, the Ocean captures carbon, generates half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and controls the climate. The rich biodiversity and the abundance of life it hosts, both feed us and protect our coasts. Every single day, we benefit immensely from its energy, its contents and from the medicines we’re discovering in it. Since the beginning of time, it has brought humans together and enabled virtually all the world’s commercial trade. It makes us marvel and it makes us dream.

It’s the future of Humanity, yet it’s under threat.

We’re drowning our Ocean in garbage, plastics, polluted waters and carbon gases. Right now, we’re plundering its fish and destroying its habitats. Tomorrow, will we do the same with its genetic and mineral resources? As the object of our relentless and ever-competitive needs, will the Ocean become the cause and the stage of future armed conflicts?

The Ocean is the responsibility of all.

The international agreements of the second half of the 20th century put in place a regime that has long been considered necessary and sufficient for the Ocean’s management. But we must go far beyond and together develop a new approach that places collective responsibility well above the traditional principles of freedom and ownership of the Ocean.

The Ocean is the Common Good of Humanity.

The foreword to the Paris Agreement on climate encourages all States to watch over the integrity of the Ocean as an ecosystem, with a view to protect its vast biodiversity. Currently, the United Nations is rushing to finalize a legal regime for the High Seas that better protects them while enabling the sustainable use of their resources,

“But We, signatories to this Appeal, consider that the entirety of the Ocean is under threat and vigorously demand that all marine spaces, from the coasts to the High Seas, be considered as a Common Good of Humanity.”



Appeal for the ocean, common good of humanity


%%your signature%%

Share this with your friends:


They already signed 8208 !


As the United States have withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate and as negotiations have started at the United Nations regarding the protection and exploitation of the High Seas, new initiatives are necessary to preserve the Ocean, to ensure it is a source of richness, exchanges and life, not a source of confrontations, asphyxia and death, thus contributing to pacified international relations.

The Ocean is the fragile regulator of our climate. It enables the globalization of exchanges and feeds countless populations. Its waters and the life within know no boundaries: it demands a multilateral, active and committed governance so that it doesn’t become the source of major divisions between nations.

As a result of the debates led by both the Environmental, Social and Economic Council and the French Institute for the Sea, the initiators of the Appeal deem it vital that the Ocean be considered as “everyone’s thing” as opposed to “nobody’s thing”, or that of a few: humanity’s inalienable good for which everyone is responsible – humanity’s common good.

This approach does not jeopardise the Law of the Sea and the principles of liberty, sovereignty and sharing. But it places the responsibility above these principles. Hence the liberty of the seas must be regulated so that all extractions everywhere are sustainably organized and coordinated , and sovereign rights granted to costal States translate in return into efforts of knowledge, preservation, and if necessary, reparation of the marine environment.

The global community is starting to grasp what is at stake for our Ocean, as it did yesterday for the climate: the time for this new vision has come, time to take and share responsibility for the Ocean.

As actors of the civil society, we are convinced of the importance of these principles and have decided to launch an Appeal for the Ocean, Common Good of Humanity and we invite all men and women of good will to take it forward with us.



There is but One Ocean…

The ocean is global, even if it seems fragmented by the continents. In fact, it surrounds them and connects all the seas, gulfs, and creeks … All saltwater areas are interconnected and form a single planetary Ocean.

What is a Common good?

Commons goods are goods or resources, physical but also immaterial, which belong to us in common, for example water, air, the streets, arts, internet or free software.

If in many civilizations in the past, and in some still today, pastures, forests, rivers have been managed as res communes (common good), things that belong in common to all. Many of these goods have become res privatae (private good) organized by the market, or res publicae (public good) at the disposal of the State. The rest has often been regarded as res nullius, these “nobody’s things”, the principle here is the absence of rules, which must not be confused with the principle of freedom.

Yet these Common goods are not goods without a master and they must not be used for any purpose, nor be destroyed. Everyone can legitimately claim rights to them.

The “the tragedy of commons” was highlighted in the 1960s by the economist Garrett HARDING: their frequent overexploitation. The absence of common management rules, especially under the influence of growing demographic pressures. In a common pasture, if there is no rule, some will find an interest in grazing as many animals as possible, but the cost of this overuse will affect the resource and the other breeders. In such context, the privatization of property may be considered necessary, the owner ensuring better sustainability.

Nobel Economics Prize winner in 2009, Elinor OSTROM has shown that for a long time, all over the world, communities have been able and are still able to manage common goods in an economically optimal way, through the creation of collective management systems.

Common good, common heritage, what differences?

Common good refers to the notion of a shared object that everyone must be able to benefit from and therefore each is responsible to all others. A common good is inalienable. It can be used, it can be exploited, it can even be developed, but only to the extent that these uses are not done at the expense of the good itself, other members of the community or generations to come.

A heritage, even a “common” one – such as are considered the sea beds, refers to the notions of ownership, appropriation, exclusivity. Rights to a patrimony are bought, sold and traded. A patrimony can be cut up, fragmented, consumed, alienated, and squandered. One can thus lose one’s rights on a patrimony.

Stating that the ocean is a common good of humanity is declaring that, directly or indirectly, it is at the service of all humanity, today and tomorrow, and that it must be managed and preserved accordingly.

Common Good and International Convention on Law of the Sea Or why introduce the notion of common good into the International Law of the Sea?

It is a matter of giving primacy to the principle of responsibility in relation to those of State sovereignty and freedom, which are the foundations of Sea Law.

The Montego Bay Convention is a balance between the rights granted to coastal States, the freedom needed for flags States and the strategic and economic interests they underpin. Placing the responsibility above these two poles is to give a key to overcoming the existing tensions between them and to encourage to give full place to Part XII, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the marine environment. This chapter enumerates the obligations of States with regard to land-based and pelagic pollution. But no mechanism is foreseen to engage the responsibility of failing states, for example with regards to water purification standards or lack of control of boats flying their flags.

Is a Common good compatible with the maritime areas as defined by the Convention on Law of the Sea?

It is not in our mind to question the equilibrium of the Montego Bay Convention.

But we must renew our vision of the various maritime areas and their status, whether they are:

  • Inland Waters, over which states now exercise complete sovereignty;
  • Territorial Seas, where this sovereignty is limited by the right of innocent passage;
  • Exclusive Economic Zones, where coastal States exercise only sovereign rights limited to the exploration and exploitation of economic resources, as well as attributions mainly for the preservation of the environment;
  • the International Seabed Area, the exploration and exploitation of which is part of the common heritage of humanity ;
  • finally, the High Seas, where the freedom of the seas and the law of the various Flag States which cross there, reigns.

This new interpretation of the Law of the Sea consists in considering that the specific rights which the Convention gives to a State must be seen first and foremost as a particular delegation of responsibility for the appropriate management of spaces.