Developing Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Protection of Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

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The marine environment of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) is complex, interconnected, and vulnerable to a multitude of threats from human activities, both on land and in water. The broad scope of environmental obligations established by the legal and normative frameworks that operate in marine ABNJ is one of their greatest strengths, but there remain significant gaps and weaknesses that need to be addressed. There has been increased interest in strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as one way to respond to the need for improved environmental governance. The central aim of SEA is the integration of environmental considerations into strategic-level decisions. Its use in marine ABNJ can help to uphold mandates established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international environmental law. However, its application at an international level is underdeveloped and lacks cohesiveness. Developing a comprehensive SEA for marine ABNJ will require a strong understanding of the normative and institutional characteristics of a multifaceted decision-making context, as well as an understanding of SEA itself. This thesis begins with a doctrinal analysis of the current international legal framework governing marine ABNJ, with special attention on the elements that relate to the use of SEA. A study of SEA as a “family of approaches” is used to underscore its benefits and the importance of context in shaping the contours of SEA practice. The status of SEA in international law is also assessed, along with its relationship with due diligence and the principles of integration and interrelationship. These discussions contribute to an examination of what will define the contours of SEA form and content in marine ABNJ. This thesis concludes that, while the specifics of SEA practice will require further elaboration, at the heart of SEA exists both a legal foundation for its inclusion in international law as an obligation for marine ABNJ and the potential for it to promote more than just environmental protection, but also a more cohesive approach to the environmental governance of marine ABNJ as a whole.
International environmental law, Law of the sea, Areas beyond national jurisdiction, Strategic environmental assessment, International law, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Gu, K. (2023). Developing strategic environmental assessment for the protection of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from