Oceans Sustainability Pathways for Achieving Conflict transformation



Project type


Life on earth depends on healthy oceans. But our oceans are in decline. There is mounting pressure on finite marine resources because of the increasing number of competing activities, technological advances, and over-exploitation, pollution and climate change.

Conflicts about how to harness benefits from marine resources are widespread, intensifying, and unfolding in unprecedented ways. There are long-standing disputes between activities like fisheries, and oil and gas exploitation. New conflicts are emerging, e.g., sea-level rise could displace millions on low-lying coasts, and submerge some small island nations. Ocean conflicts reflect deep-rooted struggles over ownership, rights, benefits, and human-nature relationships on our Blue Planet.

Surprisingly, ocean conflict resolution is an under-developed field of scholarship and practice. OCEANS PACT argues that ocean sustainability prospects depend on building tailor-made capabilities to analyze, productively manage, and where possible transform ocean conflicts.

We construct a co-designed, transdisciplinary, action research approach. We aim to develop deep insights about diverse ocean conflicts through real-world collaboration of context-specific research teams that include stakeholder partners, social and natural scientists, and conflict resolution experts. Our comparative analysis focuses on conflicts that traverse the Global North and South, in South Africa, India, Brazil, Norway/Barents Sea, Baltic Sea and United States.

We investigate how existing conflict resolution practices help or hinder ocean sustainability. We examine how formal interventions, e.g., law, and informal practices, e.g., negotiation, can be harnessed to unlock the transformative potential of conflict resolution.

The new knowledge gained will be used to develop and test ocean conflict resolution tools and practices. OCEANS PACT will generate significant scientific, socio-political and practice benefits in our case studies, and enable scaling up of insights, tools and conflict resolution practices that foster global ocean sustainability.

OCEANS PACT receives funding from Belmont Forum’s Collaborative Research Action on Ocean Sustainability within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development). Belmont Forum is an international partnership of funding organizations, science councils, and regional consortia committed to the advancement of transdisciplinary science.

Prof. Ronaldo Christofoletti, Univ. Federal de São Paulo, Brazil

Dr. Merle Sowman, Univ. of Cape Town, South Africa

Prof. Peter Arbo, University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway

Dr. Frank Dukes, Institute of Environmental Negotiation, University of Virginia, USA

Prof. D. Parthasarathy, The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India

Research area / geographic area

Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies Environmental Science Global Development Studies Environmental Studies Nature & the environment Sweden Baltic Eastern Europe Europe Asia North America South America Africa

Contract ID


Project time

2020 — 2024

Useful links

Belmont Forum


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