There are two types of people in the world: those who believe in international law, and those who don’t. The main contention that arises between these two groups is whether international law works, that is, whether it is enforceable. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was concluded in 1982 after a series of territorial waters disputes were inadequately resolved by the international law of the time, and came into force in 1994. Ever since, the South China Sea has still been hotly contested between Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, and until recently, unresolved under international law.
When the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal on the matter of the South China Sea was handed down in July 2016, international lawyers were unsurprised to hear that the verdict was in favour of the Philippines and that China’s assertions over the South China Sea were not recognised under international law. China had scant evidence to assert its claim on a majority of the South China Sea, but it was fully prepared to be on the offensive and deny the unfavourable verdict. Despite the verdict, China has continued its activity of island-building in the disputed waters.
The 2017 Australian Foreign Policy White Paper made mention of these developments, showing its concern for the precipitous peace in the South-East Asian area. Many experts assert that global security and stability thrive off an adhered-to international rules-based order - international law. The South China Sea dispute is an example, in our neighbourhood, of the type of dilemma we have seen push the limits of international law to make a meaningful contribution to our rules-based international society. In the almost two years since the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal, China has continued to assert its claims of the nine-dash line, so can we really agree that international law is living up to its purpose?
We are excited to welcome three impressive speakers to the panel to discuss this area of geopolitical relations in the modern era. Please join us for a structured panel discussion, followed by audience Q&A.