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Series consists of administrative records, conference materials, correspondence, publications, drafts, speeches, and reports relating to the United Nations and to the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS III), and the Independent World Commission on the Oceans (IWCO).
The United Nations was established on October 24, 1945. Elisabeth Mann Borgese had professional associations with several branches of the UN including, but not restricted to, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and activities such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS III). Often her ties to such branches was related to her other professional activities, such as those at the International Ocean Institute. For instance, Sidney Holt, one-time director of the International Ocean Institute, was also affiliated for a significant time with the FAO. Additionally, several UN organizations provided funding and guidance for International Ocean Institute activities.
However, Elisabeth Mann Borgese is largely known for her involvement in UNCLoS III. UNCLoS III succeeded two previous Law of the Seas conferences in 1958 and 1960. Preparations for it began in 1968 with the formation of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-bed and the Ocean Floor Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction (Seabed Committee). Out of this committee began the conference proper in 1973 and it continued until 1982. Following the end of the conference, the Preparatory Commission for the International Sea-bed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Prepcom) commenced (1983-1995). Briefly, UNCLoS III concerned itself with boundaries in international waters (often relating to the Exclusive Economic Zone), seabed mining, fisheries and other ecological concerns, ocean technologies (including nuclear weaponry), and other related issues. The ideals behind the convention originated with the now famous speech delivered by Arvid Pardo to the General Assembly of the UN on November 1, 1967 in which he discussed potential problems related to the oceans in terms of the 'common heritage of mankind'.
After decades of hard work, the conference produced a constitution for the seas, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by eighty-five countries by 1996. On November 16, 1994, the Convention entered into force. During UNCLoS III, the need for an International Sea-bed Authority (ISBA) and an International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLS) was recognized, and a Prepcom was initiated after the close of UNCLoS III to establish these organizations. The ISBA is based in Kingston, Jamaica, and came into existence in November 1994. The ITLS is based in Hamburg, Germany, and began operations in July, 1996.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese was actively involved in both UNCLoS III and Prepcom. She acted as an Ambassador to the Austrian Delegation at UNCLoS III and as a representative for the International Ocean Institute at the Prepcom. To further the work of UNCLoS III, Elisabeth Mann Borgese initiated the International World Commission on Oceans (IWCO) in 1995. Under the direction of the Portuguese President Mario Soares, IWCO (many members of which were hand-picked by Borgese) produced a report that was published in 1998, the UN Year of the Oceans. Borgese was one of IWCOs vice-chairmen, but she resigned in 1998 due to her frustration with the Commissions under-representation of the developing world. In response to IWCOs report, Borgese wrote The Oceanic Circle: A Report to the Club of Rome, which she regarded as a summary of thirty years of work.