The PDF copy of this endorsement by the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh of the University of Notre Dame is attached for viewing or download.
March 13, 2008
To: Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader
Cc: Senators Lugar, Stevens and Murkowski
From: Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. (original copy signed by Rev. Hesburgh)
Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell,
I am writing concerning the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention was voted on favorably by the Foreign Relations Committee and needs to be brought to the full Senate for a vote.
I have followed the Law of the Sea negotiations since the late 1970s and I support US ratification of the Convention. Timing is critical and recent events clearly illuminate the importance of the Law of the Sea Convention to our nation.
Last summer Russian politicians and scientists used submersibles to plant their flag at the North Pole. This event was carried out to enhance the Russian claim for an extended continental shelf in the Arctic. Flag planting does not constitute a claim. However the event does confirm the strategic value of obtaining the undisputed rights of the Arctic seafloor. The other circum-Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark (for Greenland)and Norway have ratified the convention and have or are preparing to submit their claims for extended continental shelves on other sections of the Arctic seafloor. Because we have not ratified the Convention, our nation is completely out of the game as these claims are evaluated. In addition our nation has no feasible avenue to introduce our own claim to the Arctic seafloor, where our national jurisdiction could extend 600 miles north of the Alaskan coast. The Arctic is not the only location off the US coast where we could claim an extended continental shelf.
Other nations among them: Australia, Brazil, France, Mexico and New Zealand have submitted extensive seafloor claims. Again, because we have not ratified the Convention we are excluded from commenting on their claims or participating in the evaluation process.
It is time for this situation to change and for the Senate to vote and ratify the Convention.
The Convention is the constitution for the seas. The continental shelf claims are currently in the limelight, but the other aspects of the Convention, national security, environmental protection and dispute settlement are no less important.
In closing, I recognize that the Convention is not perfect, no document negotiated over 75 weeks by 130 plus nations could be. Nevertheless, more than 154 nations have ratified the Convention. These nations are at work implementing the Convention and our nation needs to join them, not only for our own purposes by to insure legitimate governance of the world's resources.