Diplomats at Sea

Current diplomatic fashion tempts us to label 1974 the Year of the Sea. Negotiators from nearly every country are about to assemble in Caracas to revise comprehensively the principles and rules that have guided ocean affairs for several hundred years. The convening gavel at the Law of the Sea Conference, however, will signal both the denouement of intensive pre-Conference diplomacy and the arrival of the new era of ocean politics. The fashioning of a new public order for the oceans, adaptive to technological, economic and political developments now emerging, can hardly be accomplished by one conference or wrapped up in a single treaty. This effort will occupy statesmen for most of the remainder of the century, for it has become deeply entangled with the chronic international problems of the post cold-war period: reconciling national security requirements with the need to contain the arms race; finding rational, just and peaceful ways of allocating the world's supply of energy, food, and industrial raw materials; searching for syntheses between the competing demands of economic development and ecological care; narrowing the economic and political gaps between the poor and the affluent peoples; and, in general, managing the growing ability of nations to affect one another for ill or for good.

Increasingly, what happens in and to the sea will affect broad public interests. What has thus far been the concern of a small circle of officials, experts and interested private parties will more and more impinge on basic American foreign policy concerns. If an effective public-interest constituency is to coalesce around U.S. ocean policy, it will need to know more about how maritime developments are stimulating new international competition in the ocean, what issues are likely to dominate the bargaining at the forthcoming Conference, and what premises ought to guide longer-range U.S. policies.


Three basic factors will shape the process and outcome of the forthcoming round of negotiations.

First, ocean resources and space, accessible to more nations and private interests than ever before,

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