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Prevent War: Oil Disaster Shows Need for Law of the Sea Treaty

A dispatch from Friends Committee on National Legislation: A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest

ARCTIC OCEAN -- The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent makes an approach to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 5, 2009. The two ships are taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf. (Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard)

As oil continues gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP disaster, policymakers in Washington are discussing prospects for more drilling in deep waters. Although President Obama has called for a temporary moratorium on offshore drilling, oil companies have already been competing for new oil reserves previously locked below arctic ice that are now becoming accessible due to global warming and the resultant melting. 

In the midst of debate around the Gulf disaster and future drilling, U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty has again become a hot topic. A recent Congressional Quarterly article on the Law of the Sea notes:

“According to a 2008 assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic makes up “the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on Earth,” holding an estimated 30 percent of the world’s untapped natural gas, ….20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids…. The region is also thought to contain 13 percent of global untapped oil supplies.”

As global warming and geopolitical considerations spark a struggle for access to resources in the Arctic, ratifying the Law of the Sea will be critical to environmental protection and preventing violent conflict. The treaty would hold the U.S. accountable to international environmental standards, help determine disputed sovereignty over coastal waters, and give the U.S. a seat on the International Seabed Authority-the decision-making body that determines questions of seabed resource extraction.

FCNL has been working on U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Treaty for more than thirty years. Senate leadership has said the Law of the Sea will be the next international treaty for action after the START treaty, suggesting a ratification vote is not in sight this year. FCNL has called on President Obama to press for Senate ratification of the convention.

Take Action!

Forward this message to five friends to educate them about the importance of U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea to protect our ocean resources. The next time the Gulf oil spill comes up in conversation, discuss the importance of U.S. ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to set international regulations safeguarding one of the world’s most unique natural spaces–the Arctic. Learn more about the Law of the Sea, a time honored FCNL project!

Making Prevention a National Security Priority

President Obama’s first National Security Strategy (NSS), released on May 27th, includes the strongest language yet seen in an NSS on preventing violent conflict. The purpose of the NSS is to outline a president’s policy strategy and direct the government bureaucracy’s actions. Obama’s NSS seems to place broad prevention as a frame and directs the government to build up the civilian capacities needed to prevent future deadly conflicts, an encouraging sign. It also calls for ratification of the Law of the Sea to protect global commons.

Despite the improved focus on prevention as a national security priority, however, the NSS continues old, flawed policies that perpetuate the supremacy of the armed forces over civilians in foreign policy and justifies seemingly endless war-fighting. For more details about the highlights and lowlights check out Bridget’s blog.

Hill Update – More Money for War

On the same day that the administration released its National Security Strategy, the Senate passed a $58.8 billion dollar supplemental spending bill by a vote of 67 to 28. The majority – $33 billion – of that money will go to continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there was also money for Haiti relief efforts, oil spill clean up, and other national natural disasters.

FCNL supported an amendment to the supplemental offered by Senator Feingold (WI) that would require President Obama to develop an exit strategy and a final withdrawal date that could be modified under certain conditions. The amendment was voted down, but 18 Senators voted for it-almost 20% of the Senate – another small indication that the support for war fighting in Congress may be waning. The House is expected to take up the supplemental later this month.

Save the Date, Mark Your Calendars, Get Excited
Last prevent war conference call! Mark your calendar for the final prevent war conference call on June 23rd at 8-9pm EST. Receive a final update on current legislation and be the first to hear about two new peace tools to educate your communities about preventing war.

The Law of the Sea Front and Center at this Center on Ocean Law and Policy Conference
The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace

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