City of Geneva formally supports Geneva Declaration Development

Press Release

21st May 2019

Geneva. Switzerland. In a significant move, the City of Geneva has formally supported and endorsed the development of Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea in a signing ceremony held at the Palace Eynard in Geneva between the Mayor of Geneva, Mr. Sami Kanaan, and the Founder of the charity, Human Rights at Sea, Mr. David Hammond.

Supporting the development process from civil society has seen Dr. Caroline Abu Sa’da, Director of SOS Mediterranean Switzerland, liaising with City officials and institutions on behalf of the UK-based charity to successfully help deliver today’s event.

First issued by the charity on the 5th April 2019 as part of an emerging and transparent documentary development process clarifying existing applicable international law relating to human rights in the maritime environment, the Geneva Declaration is undergoing stakeholder development both in Geneva and through remote consultations worldwide, including a second round drafting session held today at the Villa Moynier home of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and hosted by Professor Marco Sassoli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

The formal endorsement was signed in French with an English version provided.

The formal press release was issued in French by the Office of the Mayor and was picked up by Swiss media. The English translation reads:

“Press release May 21, 2019
To the representatives of the media
The City of Geneva supports the Geneva Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights at Sea

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at the Eynard Palace, Mr. Sami Kanaan, Mayor of Geneva, signed the Geneva Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights at Sea, initiated by the NGO Human Rights at Sea, in the presence of Mr. David Hammond, Director of Human Rights at Sea, and Ms. Caroline Abu Sa’da, Director of SOS MÉDITERRANÉE Switzerland.

The City of Geneva reaffirms the importance it attaches to human rights, especially in the area of ​​rescue at sea. The situation of migrants drama remains in the Mediterranean with more than 17,000 deaths since 2014, of which more than 2260 in 2018, according to figures from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Geneva Declaration recalls the fundamental principles of international law in human rights and rescue at sea. Its main objective is to raise awareness public opinion to the violation of human rights at sea and thus to provoke an international mobilization to end it.

For the Mayor of Geneva, Sami Kanaan, the Geneva Declaration corresponds to the values defended by the City of Geneva in the area of ​​human rights. He very much hopes that this campaign will encourage other cities to sign this text.”


English Endorsement Text:


With the current international focus on the long-term sustainable use and protection of our seas, the cleaning up of the marine environment, the increased awareness for need of protection of maritime ecology and bio-diversity, awareness of the essential need for sustainable global fisheries, awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees undertaking perilous sea crossings to achieve better lives and escape war, famine, drought and unemployment, of acts of piracy, and of the scale and scope of commercial supply chains engaged in the global daily supply of goods and services by and at sea, and all the while States are driving greater levels of international influence through assertions of greater ocean governance; the time has come to explicitly address the concept and issue of human rights at sea.

The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea (“the Declaration”), drafted in this City and being further developed here with the input of a wide range of important agencies, NGOs and individual specialists, is a significant document for our times.

The oceans are quite rightly the focus of international attention today and this document deals with issues that up to now have been given very much less attention than they deserve. Our City is enthusiastic about this initiative and proud of the fact that our Graduate Institute and Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights have hosted its drafting and development.

The Declaration is a profoundly important instrument that aims to ensure accountability and compliance with human rights standards at sea – on the 70% of the Earth’s surface that is covered in salt water and which is beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any state.

The Declaration, conceived and introduced by the UK charity ‘Human Rights at Sea’, has the aim to ensure compliance with international human rights at sea, particularly in areas beyond territorial jurisdiction.

The concept of the Declaration is to deliver a soft law instrument which captures the concept of ‘human rights at sea’ and the founding principle that ‘human rights apply at sea as they do on land’ for all persons living, working, transiting, or engaged in any other type of activity at sea, reflecting internationally recognised fundamental human rights stemming from established international conventions and instruments.

The City of Geneva, as a global economic hub, the home of the UN and a leading flag State, has an intimate and vested interest in the assurance and protection of human rights on both land and at sea.

I am honoured as Mayor to be able formally to endorse the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea on behalf of the City of Geneva. I feel sure it will come in future years to be seen as a seminal initiative in the quest for human rights for all people, wherever they may be.

On behalf of the City of Geneva, the Office of the Mayor of Geneva formally endorses and supports the ongoing development and finalisation of the Declaration.”


David Hammond, Founder of Human Rights at Sea, commented: “Today has been a key step in advancing the development of the Geneva Declaration which is an ongoing process to achieve a document capable of potentially entering the UN human rights system for further development by and at State level. We are very grateful for the overt support of the City of Geneva and the responsibility entrusted in all the stakeholders for delivering this emerging soft-law instrument.”

Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea – Soft Law development Version 1: 5 April 2019

There is a profound need for the concept of ‘Human Rights at Sea’ to be accepted globally.  The principal aim of this Declaration is to raise global awareness of the abuse of human rights at sea and to mobilise a concerted international effort to put an end to it.


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