Nautilus International's recent reporting on the Wilton Park Human Rights Law at Sea Conference, which took place in December 2022, serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and fair treatment of all persons working at sea and provides valuable insights into the challenges faced in enforcing human rights laws throughout the maritime environment.  

The Wilton Park Conference was organised as a direct response to the 2021 House of Lords United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Inquiry, which asked whether the instrument is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The Nautilus International article accurately highlights the consensus among the conference attendees that UNCLOS is not "designed to address human rights issues." and rightly underscores the need for a better framework to adequately address the diverse human rights issues that arise. 

Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea

In its recent article, "Enhancing human rights at sea", Nautilus International ask, "Do we need a new treaty?"

In April 2019, in response to the ongoing recurring abuse of human rights globally at sea, Human Rights at Sea recognised the need for state and non-state actors to adopt a new soft-law approach; itself critical for the future success of increased protection of human rights at sea.

As a consequence and over three years our NGO brought together leading experts, global academics and four international maritime law firms to unite existing international law into one document. As a result, the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea (GDHRAS) was born.

Backed by extensive data gathering with over 1000 pages of evidence and footnoted links, the justification of core need was clear in the drafting the document and later launched in Geneva, Switzerland, on 1 March 2022.

Importantly, the GDHRAS, which was supplied to all Wilton Park conference attendees, recognises that the maritime environment can present unique challenges to protecting human rights and seeks to address these challenges through a set of guiding principles and best practices.

Taking Action

Human Rights at Sea is pleased that Nautilus International is concurrently highlighting our NGO's long-held position around the need for better protections for all persons at sea to be enforced alongside the likes of the Maritime Labour Convention and the ILO 188 Working in Fishing Convention.

By adopting and developing the GDHRAS, states and non-state actors can help to ensure that all persons at sea are treated with dignity and respect, including protecting them from abuse, exploitation, and discrimination and ensuring they have access to basic necessities such as food, water and medical care.

Available to Download

The GDHRAS is freely available to download in 13 languages, and it is ready now for use to better protect the estimated 30 million people who work, live and move across our world's oceans and seas.

Looking forward, we will utilise our UN special consultative status to advocate for the global adoption of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea to fill the much-needed gap highlighted by the 2021 House of Lords Inquiry.

Human Rights at Sea and partner organisations are ready to better protect all persons at sea.

The key question is, will there be a united and collaborative international effort to back such change?

Contact: If you have any questions, please write to us at

About Sharing. We welcome the use and dissemination of our work with proper accreditation. Please ensure that our Terms of Use are conformed with at all times.