Human Rights at Sea: Problems and Prospects

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With 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by the seas and oceans but most of that space beyond the territory of states, there is something of a jurisdictional vacuum when it comes to Human Rights, which states are under an obligation to provide for, to protect and to fulfil. Who monitors compliance with Human Rights standards at sea? Who has responsibility for enforcing those standards? How great a problem is this and what are the prospects for the establishment of the ‘rule of law’ at sea?

Steven Haines is Professor of Public International Law in the University of Greenwich. His research today is focused principally on Ocean Governance and the maintenance of safe and secure seas. He is a long-standing and active Trustee of the NGO Human Rights at Sea ( )

Prior to taking up his current post in Greenwich, he spent four years in Geneva on the Management Board of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy establishing its Security and Law Programme on behalf of the Swiss Federal Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs. Before moving to Geneva in 2008, he was Professor of Strategy and the Law of Military Operations at Royal Holloway College (University of London), where he was also the founding head of its Department of Politics & International Relations. He has also taught in the universities of Aberdeen and Cranfield, and at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. In 2001 he was the Royal Navy’s Hudson Senior Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College and in 2012/13 was a Visiting Fellow on Oxford’s Changing Character of War Programme.

Professor Haines was a serving officer in the Royal Navy for over 30 years, his last eight years being spent primarily in the Ministry of Defence, on the Naval and Central Policy Staffs. Operationally he served on UN mandated economic embargo operations, on counter-terrorism and coastal security operations with the Security Forces in Northern Ireland, and on the enforcement of fisheries regulations within the UK’s Extended Fisheries Zone.

Professor Haines has a strong record of pro bono work within international civil society organizations. Since 2012, he acted as legal and military adviser to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), being the author of its International Guidelines for the Protection of Education from Military Use in Armed Conflict that are now endorsed by 113 states. He joined Save the Children International’s Civil-Military Advisory Board in 2017, becoming its Chair in 2018. Since 2014 Professor Haines has been leading Human Rights at Sea’s work on the development of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, which will shortly be re-launched in a new edition.