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From the Depths: Rich Pickings of Principles of Sustainable Development and General International Law on the Ocean Floor—the Seabed Disputes Chamber’s 2011 Advisory Opinion

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In February 2011, the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea handed down its Advisory Opinion in Responsibilities and Obligations of States Sponsoring Persons and Entities with respect to Activities in the Area. Although primarily focused on governance of the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction (‘the Area’), the Opinion has wider relevance for both international environmental law and general international law. More specifically, although sustainable development is not directly referenced in the Opinion, this article argues that it goes a long way towards strengthening many of the emerging normative rules associated with it. Using the International Law Association’s 2002 New Delhi Declaration of Principles of International Law relating to Sustainable Development as a framework, this article specifically analyses the Advisory Opinion’s contribution to the sustainable use of natural resources, the precautionary approach, common but differentiated responsibilities, and the principle of good governance.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, University of Sheffield Sheffield S3 7ND United Kingdom, Email:


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