Is There a Relationship between UNDRIP and UNCLOS?

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Indigenous Rights, Climate Change, Sea Ice Melt, Arctic Sea Routes


Climate change-induced sea ice melting and the consequent opening of sea routes in the Arctic have increased the chances of interaction between ship- ping or resource development activities and traditional uses of the sea (and sea ice) by indigenous peoples in the Arctic. In the Pacific, climate change coupled with resource development activities is adversely impacting indigenous peoples’ relationship with the ocean on which they have depended for millennia. Bearing in mind the close ties that indigenous peoples have with the ocean, and also the emergence of a new field of law relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, in this article we will explore the possible convergence between international indigenous rights law and the law of the sea, most especially through their flagship instruments, respectively, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2007 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS). The enquiry will be a theoretical one and the general reader might question the basis for it given the different subject matter and status of the two instruments: UNDRIP is a UN General Assembly resolution in the field of international human rights law, whereas UNCLOS is an international multilateral convention governing the world’s oceans. At the outset we recognize that as a think-piece, this article does not address all the possible issues arising from such a novel relationship and that further scholarly research will be necessary.