Indian Journal of International Law

, Volume 57, Issue 3–4, pp 259–283 | Cite as

The common heritage of mankind after 50 years

  • Helmut TuerkEmail author


Fifty years ago, Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta proposed at the UN General Assembly that the seabed and the ocean floor, and the subsoil thereof, beyond the present limits of national jurisdiction be declared the “common heritage of mankind.” I consider how this revolutionary idea has been translated into practice. The spatial extent of the application of the principle of the common heritage of mankind, as enshrined in UNCLOS, has from the very beginning been restricted by the substantial broadening of the concept of the continental shelf through UNCLOS to a distance of 200 nautical miles or until the outer edge of the continental margin. Thus far, the CLCS was only been able to adopt 29 of the required recommendations with respect to the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. As the estimated total number of the respective submissions by coastal States will approach 120, it may take more than two further decades until the Commission will have completed its work. The boundary between national jurisdictions and the international seabed Area thus still remains largely undefined.


UNCLOS Common heritage of mankind Continental shelf Revenue-sharing International seabed area Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) ITLOS Seabed Disputes Chamber International Seabed Authority (ISA) Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) 

Copyright information

© The Indian Society of International Law 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ViennaAustria

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