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Øystein Jensen obtains PhD on Law of the Sea

Řystein Jensen(10.06.2013) FNI Senior Research Fellow Øystein Jensen has today successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf: Law and Legitimacy.

- My doctoral thesis focuses on law and legitimacy in relation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Jensen explains. This process of establishing these limits is not just a technical detail of international law, but of great importance regarding the allocation of the world's sea-bed areas and, thus, sea-bed resources.

Legal function

Jensen's thesis' first main part sets out to analyze the Commission as a decision-making institution.

- I conclude that the Commission is not just an advisory expert body composed of scientists. Its functions and competences are also of eminently legal character. The Commission's main task is to interpret and apply a treaty provision, of which some interpretative results also may be considered as controversial. Furthermore, the Commission's "recommendations" to coastal states produce significant legal effects. First, a coastal state seeking "final and binding" outer limits must heed the Commission's recommendations to the letter. Second, the recommendations also have legal effects as means of interpretation under the rules of treaty interpretation.

Decision-making behind closed doors

In the second main part of the thesis, Jensen analyzes the potential legitimacy deficits in the composition and operation of the Commission. What is somewhat remarkable is that the Law of the Sea Convention does not contain adequate regulations concerning the Commission's procedures and composition, Jensen holds.

- Examples include that the Commission's decisions cannot be appealed; its members have no formal legal competence; and the proceedings are essentially taking place behind closed doors, Jensen continues.

- The main finding of my study is therefore that in several aspects - from a normative and comparative perspective of legitimacy - there is a significant disparity between the Commission's functions and competence on the one hand, and its procedures and composition on the other. The research carried out thus also serves to illustrate - by using the example of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf - what contemporary international law theory considers to be dislocation of decision-making in the law among nations.

About The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf:

   The Commission is one of the institutions established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
   It is composed of 21 experts in geology, geophysics and hydrography.
   According to article 76 of the Convention, it shall be involved in the process of establishing the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines.

Further information:
   About today's doctoral defence (in Norwegian)
   About Dr. Jensen
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

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