ECPR General Conference
Universität Hamburg, Hamburg
22 - 25 August 2018

Regional Seas in Comparative Perspective: Security and Sustainability

Comparative Perspective
Environmental Policy
International Relations
Section Number
Section Chair
Christoph Humrich
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Section Co-Chair
Philipp Pattberg
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The oceans and regional seas receive increasing political and academic attention. Climate change, marine litter, over fishing, loss of biodiversity, and other environmental consequences of growing economic use pose challenges for respective governance. States seek to meet these challenges in global processes such as those linked to the new sustainable development goal (SDG) for the oceans, and the new implementing agreement under UNCLOS concerning biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Expanding cooperation is also to be found on the level of regional seas as for instance in the Arctic or Antarctic Oceans, the OSPAR area or the South East Asian seas. However, the growing significance of the oceans and seas for resource extraction, transport, and energy, but also for the projection of military might by old and rising great powers, makes them areas of security competition with at times high potential for conflict escalation.

While political science has not ignored these trends, it has usually not considered them from a perspective aimed at ocean and regional seas in general. If an ocean and regional sea focused perspective is chosen it usually deals with one specific ocean, regional sea or geographic area from a historic or practical rather than from a systematic and theory guided point of view. It thus elicits attention in area-specialists’ circles rather than in the center of the discipline. If ocean and regional seas politics appear in that center then as cases within themes of more general concern. Regarding security, the politics of the maritime space are usually acknowledged as part of overall military strategies and geopolitics, but then without paying much attention to the particularities of the marine realm. Respective research on marine environmental governance often displays heavy juridical focus on the law of the sea, treats marine governance as part of broader regional policies only or uses regional seas arrangements as cases for exploring more general questions of institutional design. Either way, specificities of ocean and regional seas politics are neglected.

The Section sets out to bring oceans and regional seas closer to the center of the discipline by tackling most recent developments in a systematic and comparative way. The goal is to increase general knowledge about politics in the marine realm. The Section pursues that goal in the two issue areas of regional seas sustainability and security.

Panels aim at contracting research in both issue areas from two perspectives with again two complementary dimensions: The first take on both sustainability and security in the oceans and regional seas is from the perspective of levels of governance: the Section wants to analyze both horizontal interaction on the regional level and interactions between the global level and the regional level. While the former zooms in on marine and maritime regionalization, the latter pays due regard to the global embeddedness and continuities of the oceans and regional seas. The second perspective on sustainability and security in the oceans and regional seas looks at politics’ different dimensions: the process and actor dimension on the one hand, the institutional and policy dimension on the other.

Combining these perspectives and dimensions the Section plans for Panels on the following topics: Marine geopolitics of regional seas, marine environmental and security cooperation, global governance organization and maritime conflicts in the regional seas, non-state actors and multi-stakeholder partnerships in regional seas and multi-level marine sustainability governance, comparative institutional design and effectiveness of regional seas arrangements, and comparative implementation of the SDGs in the regional seas.

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