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Mare Liberum and Mare Clausum: Maritime sovereignty, emerging countries and war by Rodrigo Fracalossi de Moraes (University of Oxford)

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building Oxford, OX1 3UQ (map)

This event is open to the public and a light lunch will be served outside the seminar room at 12.50pm.

Mare Liberum and Mare Clausum: maritime sovereignty, emerging countries and war

The idea that the sea is a common heritage of mankind has been giving way to the idea that the sovereignty of states can be extended over the sea. This process started in the post-World War II, due mainly to discoveries on the economic potential of the sea. The nature of the sovereignty over the sea, however, is distinct from the one over land areas. In most maritime areas under state jurisdiction, sovereignty is economic. In the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf states have exclusive rights to exploit resources but do not have political sovereignty. Although distinct, economic sovereignty does not imply the absence of interstate competitive dynamics. This process might change the nature of naval warfare. In the past, sea areas were usually places where interstate disputes reverberated, rather than being objects of disputes in themselves. However, as states have been progressive extending their jurisdiction over the sea, they need to permanent ‘occupy’ them, either with naval vessels or surveillance systems.

The presentation will focus, in particular, on the perspectives of emerging countries, especially Brazil and China. In Brazil, a nuclear submarine project and the new concept of ‘Blue Amazon’ (as a reference to the national jurisdictional waters) indicate the economic, political and symbolic importance of Brazil´s sovereignty over the sea. Likewise, in China, the modernization of the Navy and the physical occupation of territories in the South China Sea indicate its interest in expanding its sovereignty over maritime areas. 

Rodrigo Fracalossi de Moraes is a DPhil candidate in International Relations at the University of Oxford (Green Templeton College), where he investigates the determinants of disarmament and arms control policies. He worked for five years at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea), a government-affiliated think tank in Brazil, dealing with public policies on international and security issues. Previously, he was an officer in the Brazilian Army for seven years.