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Obligations of States under Articles 74(3) and 83(3) of UNCLOS in respect of Undelimited Maritime Areas

More than half of the world's maritime boundaries are not the subject of a delimitation agreement. Worldwide, many of these boundaries are hotly disputed, leading to tensions and generating uncertainty for States and non-State actors with a stake in maritime resources. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regulates the delimitation of maritime boundaries, and provides a framework for managing the overlapping claims of States with adjacent or opposite coastlines, and for accommodating the rights and interests of third-party States.

This project investigated the requirements of Articles 74 and 83 of UNCLOS concerning maritime delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf, with particular focus on States' obligations in respect of undelimited maritime areas to which no provisional arrangements apply. Accordingly, its central theme is the content and application of the duty in Articles 74(3) and 83(3) UNCLOS to refrain from activities that could jeopardise or hamper the reaching of a final agreement on delimitation. The research team identified and analysed the historical and contemporary practice of States to determine the content and consequences of this obligation of self-restraint. Key questions considered include the obligation's temporal and geographic scope, and the categories of activities that are prohibited and permitted within undelimited areas

As well as contributing to States' understanding of their rights and duties in undelimited maritime areas, the project's findings may have important practical consequences for States and non-state actors in areas as diverse as scientific research, environmental protection, fisheries management, and the exploitation of offshore mineral resources.

The research team consulted widely with leading academics, legal practitioners and diplomats with knowledge and experience in maritime delimitation, and has drawn on expertise from other sectors.

The research report was discussed at a public conference at BIICL on 22 July 2016. 

This research project was made possible through the kind financial support of the Government of Japan.

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