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Commonwealth assists seven Pacific countries to settle maritime boundaries

Duration: 
2010 - 2012
The Pacific islands region has approximately 48 shared boundaries where maritime entitlements overlap as a matter of international law.

The majority of these areas of overlapping entitlements have remained unresolved for the past 30 years due to the isolated nature of these areas, coupled with limited institutional expertise concerning the legal and technical matters associated with the delimitation of overlapping maritime boundaries.

Commonwealth response: 

Leading a collaborative effort with other agencies, including the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Government of Australia’s Attorney-General’s Office, the Commonwealth provided technical and legal assistance to support the acquisition and interpretation of data and the negotiation and preparation of treaty agreements involving the maritime boundaries of seven Pacific island countries, including one non-Commonwealth country.

Ten bilateral maritime boundary treaties were drafted for signing by leaders from Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the Marshall Islands. In addition, a tri-lateral treaty between Kiribati, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands was also developed concerning the determination of a point where the Exclusive Economic Zones of all three countries intersect, referred to as a “Tri-junction point”.

Result: 

In an event unique in international practice, the maritime boundary treaties were signed by all seven countries on 28 August 2012 at the 43rd Meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

These treaties were developed using state-of-the art satellite imagery and analysis and establish final and binding boundaries between the Pacific island states in accordance with international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and provide the foundation for improved ocean governance by the Pacific island countries concerned, including the conservation and management of the marine environment and for the exploration and development of marine resources including fisheries and the resources of the seabed. 

Partners: 

Applied Geoscience & Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency
Government of Australia's Attorney-General's Department
AusAID

Budget: 

£220,000 covering direct Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation funded assistance to three member countries (Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands).