Today marks the launch of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, a landmark publication protecting the human rights of all people living, working, and crossing the sea.

The Declaration is one of our most important pieces of work to date; it brings into effect our founding principles that human rights apply at sea as they do on land.

With 30 million people at sea at any given moment, there is evidence of widespread and deliberate human rights violations. These include piracy, slavery, abandonment, trafficking, child labour, and discrimination and harassment.

The extent and severity of these abuses are partially attributed to an issue known as ‘sea blindness’, describing the tendency we all have to overlook or ignore what happens at sea because it is far from the media spotlight. This sea blindness has created a culture of impunity in an already challenging environment.

We believe that if these human rights abuses were occurring on land, they’d be publicised and addressed. However, when they unfold beyond the horizon and out of sight, those with the power to intervene aren’t always aware of the problem.

The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea is structured around four principles central to the protection of human rights at sea:

  1. Human rights are universal; they apply at sea, as they do on land.
  2. All persons at sea, without any distinction, are entitled to their human rights.
  3. There are no maritime specific reasons for denying human rights at sea.
  4. All human rights established under both treaty and customary international law must be respected at sea.

The launch of the Declaration follows three years of research by our drafting team, comprised of experts in public, international, humanitarian, and refugee law. The Declaration unpacks evidence of human rights abuses and provides guidance for port states, coastal states, and flag states.

The Declaration is now open for public consultation for the next 6 months (closing on 1st September 2022). We welcome your feedback on the Declaration and its contents.