By Barbara Johns, Mark Zacher
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Extra info for Canadian Foreign Policy and the Law of the Sea
A few obvious allies, including Australia, Iceland, Norway, and several Latin American states, particularly Argentina, supported positions similar to Canada's, but many states took a reserved, wait-and-see attitude, and many others, particularly short coast, narrow margin, and landlocked states, were moving towards explicit opposition to Canada's position. Under these circumstances, the delegation could do little except lobby the substantial group of undecided states known to have large margins and make the unilateral option appear so strong that states unhappy with a margin limit would be compelled to accept it as a fait accompli.
The United Nations effort occurred largely within the International Law Commission (ILC), which from 1950 to 1956 worked at codifying and developing the law of the sea in order to prepare a draft convention for consideration by an international conference. Canada was not one of the fifteen states represented in the ILC, which produced three sets of draft articles on the continental shelf (1951, 1953, 1956). Canada did not enter this international process until after the ILC had produced its final draft convention.
The move was intended to speed up the negotiations by putting them into the more public and highly pressurized venue of an international conference. It was made despite the gross inadequacies in the SBC's preparatory work, which had not even reached the stage where coherent sets of alternative texts existed for every item on the agenda. After a lengthy and bitter procedural fight, involving three weeks of negotiations at two separate sessions, the The Exploitation of the Seabed 31 conference decided to make its substantive decisions by a complex consensu procedure.