The Wilton Park “Human Rights Law at Sea” Conference, organised in partnership with Human Rights at Sea Advisory Board member Sir Malcolm Evans KCMG, OBE, FLSWwas initiated as a direct response to the 2021 House of Lords United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea inquiry (UNCLOS), and whether it was fit for purpose in the 21st Century. 

Wilton Park enabled selected experts and practitioners to come together with the aim of exploring and articulating the role of human rights law at sea and to deliberate on how practical barriers to their effective application might best be addressed.

The conference report discusses the key themes of discussion, problems identified, and recommendations for possible ways forward concerning human rights protections at sea. It notes, “One solution might be to identify ‘champion States’ to take initial action on human rights at sea.”

Human Rights at Sea fully endorses this recommendation. 

Head of Operations, Martyn Illingworth, said: “We will closely rely on forward-leaning, globally minded states to lead the charge when it comes to protecting human rights at sea. The state level response we had in March 2021 at the launching of the Geneva Declaration of Human Rights at Sea in Switzerland has shown us that potentially there are a number of champion States who are willing to take initial action and take on the Declaration.”

At the conference, Human Rights at Sea was pleased to be able to offer all participants a hard copy of The Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea.

The Geneva Declaration gives practical guidance to states on how to ensure that human rights abuses at sea are detected, remedied, and ultimately ended based on four fundamental principles;

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.

Thanks to the generous support from the team at HFW LLP, the Geneva Declaration is currently available in English, Mandarin, Arabic, Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, and French, with more translations to be announced shortly. 

Human Rights at Sea will continue to work with individual states and the UN to promote the adoption of the Declaration through the Human Rights Council and looks forward to working with Wilton Park in the future.


Wilton Park is an executive agency of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, set up in 1946. It organises some 60 conferences a year in the United Kingdom and overseas and focuses on issues such as the global economy, human rights and good governance, international security, conflict prevention and resolution, sustainable development, and the environment. It brings international experts together under the same roof to discuss topical, relevant issues and provides a neutral environment where conflicting views can be expressed and debated calmly.

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