Section 18. Development of "Frontier Diplomacy"


Activities of international cooperation in the United Nations and elsewhere cover an extremely wide range of fields, In particular, activities in such fields as space, oceans and the human environment rapidly gained in importance in the past few years, and they are expected to become of greater importance in the future. While the history of the activities in these fields is comparatively short, they should be regarded as an important frontier for changing the trend in multilateral diplomacy in view of the realities of the recent activities of the United Nations.

From this point of view, the "Diplomatic Bluebook for 1971" (Section 17) discussed peaceful uses of atomic energy, space and the oceans and also the human environment, which are more recent problems. Among them, (i) the human environment problem and (ii) the ocean problem received particular attention in the past year. As regards (i), the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment (the so-called Stockholm Conference) was held in June 1972. As for (ii), several basic problems of the United Nations and the international community as a whole have been presented in very clear form through the preparatory stages for the third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea which is to be held soon.


1. Human environment problem


(1) Human environment problem in the United Nations

The first U.N. Conference on the Human Environment held from June 5 to 16, 1972, in the Swedish capital of Stockholm was an international conference that deserves special attention in the history of the United Nations because of the uniqueness of its conception and the complexity of the problems posed to the world by the Conference.

About 1,200 delegates from 113 countries took part in the Conference which adopted the epoch-making "Declaration of the United Nations on the Human Environment," the "International Action Plan" composed of 109 recommendations, the resolution on the institutional arrangement for the establishment of the Governing Council for the Environment Program, the U.N. Environment Program Secretariat and the U.N. Environment Fund, the resolution for designating June 5 of every year as World Environment Day, the resolution on the holding of the second U.N. Conference on the Human Environment and so on.

These agreements were submitted to the 27th U.N. General Assembly toward the end of 1972, and they were approved almost in toto, although some of them were revised slightly. The Governing Council for the Environment Program, the U.N. Environment Secretariat and other related U.N, environment organizations were formally established as a result, and the Governing Council for the Environment Program (made up of 58 countries including Japan) is scheduled to hold its first meeting in Geneva in June 1973. The meeting is expected to study the action plan in a concrete manner and to decide on the methods of its implementation and priorities.

The size of the U.N. Environment Fund is expected to be about $100 million in the next five years, and Japan is to make a contribution equivalent to 10 per cent of the target amount according to the pledge Japan made at the Stockholm Conference. A heated controversy arose in the U.N. General Assembly at the end of 1972 over the selection of a site for the Environment Program Secretariat. It was finally decided to locate it in Nairobi, Kenya, in accordance with the wishes of the developing countries. The secretariat is scheduled to move from Geneva to Nairobi in the autumn of 1973.

It can be said that the rails have been laid for environment diplomacy centering on the United Nations. The question is what kind of environment diplomacy will begin running along the track and what kind of contribution Japan should make to the environment diplomacy of the future. In Japan, the environment problem tends to be associated with the pollution problem because of the circumstances peculiar to that country. Therefore, the Japanese people's understanding of the wide range of problems involved in the human environment issue other than pollution, such as natural resources, population, housing, development and the environment, is generally partial, and it seems necessary for Japan to begin by reflecting upon this point when dealing with environment diplomacy in the future.

The problem is not one of the definition of the new concept called the human environment and its contents, but rather is one of how to understand correctly the major trend of thought and the current of the times behind the concept. The Stockholm Conference covered a very wide range of various problems so much so that it was said to have discussed problems "from the whale to the Vietnam war." And there was a tendency to discuss such problems in a sentimental and emotional manner in not a few cases with the idealistic catch-phrase "Only One Earth." However, it is undeniable that behind the seemingly idealistic discussion lay highly realistic considerations based on geographical and economic differences between the developed and the developing countries, between the countries interested in maritime problems and the countries having no interest in the sea, and between the countries exporting natural resources and those importing them.

"Only One Earth" is a concept based on the realization that the earth can be easily disrupted and that the natural resources of the earth are limited. Since the natural resources are limited, the developing countries try to protect those resources both within their borders and nearby against "exploitation" or pollution by the developed countries, and, therefore, they attempt to expand their jurisdiction. Moreover, the developing countries insist that areas over which no country has jurisdiction, such as the floor of the deep sea beyond the continental shelf of a country and the resources in these areas (such as whales and other fishery resources and submarine oilfields) should be prescribed as "common property of mankind" and be placed under international control, and that profit obtained from the development of such areas and resources should be used for all of mankind, especially for the developing countries. From this point of view, the developing countries are demanding the establishment of new international rules or a new order capable of coping with the new situation. This strongly reflects the developing countries' discontent that the principles of international law which have controlled the world for several centuries since the establishment of modern states, are designed to always serve the interests of the developed countries and, therefore, are unfair.

On the other hand, the developed countries, especially countries like Japan which are poor in natural resources, tend to take this kind of argument by the developing countries as a challenge. However, it would be a mistake to view it as a variation of the conventional North-South problem from the standpoint of a confrontation between the developed countries and the developing countries. The reason is that the global scale of the environmental pollution of today caused by highly advanced science and technology and by qualitative and quantitative expansion of production activities contains the possibility of the destruction of the earth and mankind if it is left as it is, while the conventional North-South problem is caused by the lack of awareness that the earth is limited. Therefore, there is the urgent need to re-evaluate the conventional meaning of the North-South problem and enhance the principles of conventional international law to create new and reasonable rules and a new international order. It can be said that the role of the United Nations' "frontier diplomacy" is to positively meet the needs of the times.

(2) Environment problems in the OECD and other forums

Parallel to these moves in the United Nations, activities of the Environment Committee of OECD have been drawing particular attention. This committee was formed in 1970 after reorganizing and absorbing the OECD's Committee on Research and Cooperation which had been in charge of the technical aspects of environmental problems, so that the new committee could cover the economic aspects of environment problems as well, thus coordinating the whole range of environment policies among the industrially advanced countries. The committee undertakes a wide range of studies such as the promotion and coordination of environmental protection measures to be taken by the industrially advanced countries and assessment of their effects on economies and trade. In May 1972, the OECD Council adopted the "Guiding Principles" concerning the international economic aspects of environment policies in the form of a recommendation. By virtue of this recommendation, the member countries of the OECD committed themselves to observe the" polluter pay principle" and to endeavor to achieve an international harmonization of nationally-set environment standards.

GATT decided in November 1971 to establish the Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade, an ad hoc committee to study the relationship between environmental protection measures and the purpose of GATT. The OECD's DAC and the World Bank also took up the environmental problem in connection with development aid.

The Japan-U.S. Ministerial Conference on Environmental Pollution and the Japan-U.S. Conference on the Development and Uses of Natural Resources were also established as forums for the discussion of the environmental problem between Japan and the United States. The former is intended to promote close cooperation between the two countries in such matters as the setting of standards for measuring pollution, personnel interchange, the exchange of information and the planning and execution of joint projects. Its first meeting was held in Tokyo in October 1970 followed by a second one in Washington in June 1971. The latter has 19 expert committees, and those on air pollution, water pollution, forestry and management of national parks are expert committees charged with matters related to the environmental problem. The conference continues its activities aimed at expanding liaison and cooperation between technical experts and the exchange of information, data and research results.


2. Preparation for the third Conference on the Law of the Sea


The third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, scheduled to begin at the end of 1973, may be characterized, so far as the basic idea is concerned, as being an extension of the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment held in June 1972. Problems connected with the various uses of the seas and oceans, which cover 70 per cent of the entire surface of the earth, have global significance in every sense of the word, affecting all mankind. Therefore, the moves in which the international community is now involved for convening a new conference are being conducted with a greater degree of seriousness than was demonstrated at the Stockholm conference.

The preparatory work for the conference has been under way for the past several years within the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Seabed and the Ocean Floor of the United Nations which is made up of 91 countries, including Japan, with a specific mandate for this purpose. The Committee met in Geneva in July and August 1972 following the heated controversy experienced in the preceding years and managed to agree on a list of subjects and issues relating to the law of the sea to be taken up at the Conference. Acting upon this agreement, the 27th session of the U.N. General Assembly of 1972 agreed, on a provisional basis, on the following schedule for the Conference: (a) an organizational sessions to be held in New York in November/December 1973 to discuss procedural matters, such as the election of the chairman and other officers of the Conference and the adoption of standing rules; (b) a substantive session to be held in Santiago, Chile, for about eight weeks in April and May 1974 to discuss and adopt treaties, etc.; and (c) two meetings of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Seabed and the Ocean Floor to be held in the spring (in New York) and summer (in Geneva) of 1973 to promote preparatory work for the Conference. Thus, it can be said that the preparatory work for the third Conference on the Law of the Sea has passed the "point of no return."

As the name of the Conference suggests, two U.N.-sponsored conferences on the law of the sea were held in the past: the first was in Geneva in 1958, which codified the rules and principles of international law that existed mainly in the form of customary law into four Conventions concerning, namely, territorial waters, the high seas, fisheries on the high seas, and the continental shelf' the second Conference was in 1960, again in Geneva to discuss the specific problem of determining the extent of territorial waters on which the first Conference two years before had failed to reach agreement. However, no decision could be reached and the second Conference resulted ins failure.

The problems of the law of the sea received relatively little further attention until close to the end of the 1960s, when, thanks to the rapid progress in science and technology in the latter half of the 1960s, the possibility of developing the resources on the seabed and the ocean floor opened up a new horizon. The Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1958 did not define in sufficiently clear terms the outer limit of the continental shelf over which a coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources, and there emerged serious concern that, unless this situation was remedied, the deep seabed and the ocean floor would eventually be divided up among the technically advanced countries on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Against such a background, and acting on a proposition of the delegate of Malta the United Nations established, at its 22nd session of the General Assembly in 1967, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Seabed and the Ocean Floor. (This Committee originally started with 42 member countries, and its membership was increased to 86 in 1970 and further to 91 in 1971.)

Views and opinions differed greatly from the start in the Committee between the developed countries on the one hand, and the developing countries on the other, and the discussions ran into many difficulties. However, the U.N. General Assembly in 1970 succeeded in adopting a Declaration of Principles governing the seabed and the ocean floor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, based on the work of the Committee. The Declaration states that the seabed as well as its resources are the common heritage of mankind. It also declares that all activities regarding the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the seabed and other related activities shall be governed by international control and that such activities shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, taking into particular consideration the interests and needs of the developing countries.

It can thus be easily seen that the third Conference on the Law of the Sea will be essentially different from the two previous Conferences on the subject. Compared with the two previous Conferences whose main task was to codify more or less the traditionally established rules of the law of the sea with the advanced maritime countries playing the leading role, the forthcoming Conference will be dominated by the developing countries; well over two-thirds of the participants will be the developing countries which will want to review, and where necessary to abrogate, the traditionally established maritime law. This fact alone is sufficient to indicate that a violent clash of interests between the numerically superior developing countries and the advanced countries, which are in the minority, will be inevitable and that the conference will have to face untold difficulties in working out political compromises over many controversial issues awaiting resolution. Among the developing countries are included those Latin American countries which claim that waters within 200 nautical miles from the coast be made subject to the sovereignty of the coastal state and those African countries, such as Kenya, calling for designating the same sea areas as an "exclusive economic zone" in which the coastal state would have sovereign rights with respect to both living and non-living resources. Even among the developed countries, there is a group (including such countries as Canada and Australia) that advocates extending national jurisdictions for the purpose of preserving natural resources in the off-shore areas and protecting the marine environment against pollution caused by foreign tankers, etc. These countries contend that recognition of increased coastal states rights and the extension of coastal states jurisdiction are in their interests to preserve the marine environment and protect the sea resources, both living and non-living, in the coastal sea areas against the advance of major maritime countries.

As for the seas (including the seabeds) beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, these groups insist that they should be placed, together with the resources therein, under international control as the "common heritage of mankind." The slogan of "Only One Earth" expressed at the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, provides the most effective basis for their claims, and this shows that there exists a close link between the problem of the law of the sea and that of the environment. For instance, the international conference held in London from October to November 1972 to negotiate the Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping was the first concrete result achieved following the agreement reached at the Stockholm Conference. At the same time, that Conference had the character of being a prelude to the third Conference on the Law of the Sea scheduled to be held one year later in that it became entangled with various problems which pointed up the difficulties that exist because of the inseparable links between the environment problem and the problem of the law of the sea.

As can be gathered from the experience at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and the London Conference on the Prevention of Marine Pollution, Japan has shown a great interest on these matters as an "advanced victim of pollution" in the environment problem and has taken a most positive attitude in enhancing international cooperation in this field. On the other hand, as a maritime country, Japan has traditionally had vital interests in the uses of the sea, particularly with respect to fishery and maritime transportation. These interests tend to compel Japan to adopt a position which is at variance with that of a "coastal state" bent only on safeguarding the rights and interested in its limited coastal areas. In the severe international situation in which it finds itself on this particular question, Japan is expected to make serious efforts to harmonize its position with that of the international community with a view to resolving the many controversial issues confronting it and the world community.


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