In a ground-breaking move, we are actively broadening our impact in Ukraine by engaging with key stakeholders to address improved human rights protections and accountability at sea.

During a recent senior leadership field trip to Ukraine, we embarked on a series of meetings with state-level instituions, significant stakeholders in the maritime industry, legal and academic experts and maritime training institutions to address human rights concerns both at a state level and within the maritime domain. 

The trip encompassed a diverse range of interactions, from visits to maritime colleges and educational sessions with marine cadets to in-depth discussions with Members of Parliament and roundtable meetings with worker-led organisations. We held consultations with flag State representatives, shipowners, ship managers and crewing agent representatives. In Kiev, we met with the Mission of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to discuss both historic and recent human rights abuses, territorial integrity and post-conflict planning.

We aimed to plant the seeds of future engagement, and numerous promising developments have already begun to take shape

One crucial aspect of our approach is our willingness to proactively be present on the ground, actively experiencing first-hand the daily realities faced by those in the maritime industry as well as within coastal communities.

We believe in showing solidarity with colleagues and sharing first-hand experiences of human rights challenges. 

This commitment was exemplified in March 2022; shortly after the Russian invasion, we deployed a small three-person team to Ukraine as part of a field assessment visit to expand evidence collection regarding human rights abuses.

The challenges along the Black Sea coastline are multifaceted, including concerns related to port and coastal security, commercial vessel movement, the threat of floating mines, the potential for a blockade and threats of hostile targeting towards merchant vessels by Russian forces. As a result, safeguarding human rights at sea is a top priority for many stakeholders in the region. 

In parallel, soft-law development and related initiatives such as the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea are gathering momentum.

We believe that Ukraine is well-positioned to take a global leadership role in supporting the development of the Geneva Declaration not just nationally but also within the Council of Europe and UN agencies with coastal and flag state interventions. This aligns with Ukraine’s efforts to enhance its influence on the global stage and foster broader European engagement through the Council of Europe.

Our commitment to improving the lives of all individuals who live, work or transit the world’s seas and oceans remains unwavering. This dedication extends to the challenging waters of the Black Sea of Azov, where we actively engage in research, advocacy, and investigations to drive positive change and protect human rights.

The field trip to Ukraine is a testament to our holistic approach to advancing human rights protections at sea, combining active on-the-ground involvement with ongoing research and advocacy efforts. 

As we continue to build partnerships and raise awareness, our mission to create a safer and more equitable environment for all individuals at sea continues to gain momentum. 

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