As a university-level research institutions, CIL undertakes interdisciplinary research projects on ocean issues, especially on the marine environment. These projects are led by Senior Research Fellow Youna Lyons from the Ocean Law and Policy team and involve multi-disciplinary teams and expertise from other research centres from NUS and outside.
Past special projects in international law include transboundary pollution and best treaty practice and the marine environment.
The Ocean Law and Policy Programme has been engaged in the study of the international and regional governance of pollution from marine plastics since 2016 which has been supported under several project grants including the Singapore Maritime Institute, the High Commission of the United Kingdom to Singapore and United Nations Environment through the Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia.
This work involves the participation of the Centre for International Law to working groups and correspondence groups on marine plastics organized under the auspices of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), under the auspices of the Conference of the Parties to the London Convention and its Protocol and its Scientific Group as well as to 3rd Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHOEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics. Youna LYONS, CIL Senior Research Fellow, has also been nominated by Singapore Government as scientific expert in the Scientific Advising Group to this AHOEG.
The multi-disciplinary team of NUS researchers working on this topic under the leadership of CIL has sponsored and co-organised two sessions during the SEA of Solutions organized by UN Environment at UN Headquarters in Bangkok.
Click here for more information on this event.
In October 2019, the National University of Singapore (NUS) engaged in an updated report in collaboration with the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the SEA circular project implemented by COBSEA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This new report was prepared with the aim of supporting and strengthening marine litter research and informing more robust policy making, in line with the COBSEA Regional Action on Marine Litter (RAP MALI).
First Review of Research on Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia: Who Does What? (May 2019)
In May 2019, CIL has completed a report ‘A Review of Research on Marine Plastics in Southeast Asia: Who Does What?‘, in partnership with St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, the Tropical Marine Science Institute, with the financial support of the Government of the United Kingdom and with the support of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS) who participates as an observer to working groups on marine plastics at the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organisation and at the Conference of the Parties to the London Convention and Protocol.
SEA of Solutions
CIL has also led a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from NUS to the SEA of Solutions organized by UN Environment at UN Headquarters in Bangkok on 11-14 November 2019 and sponsored speakers for two sessions. Click here for more information on this event.
NUS-COBSEA Research On Pollution From Marine Plastics In Southeast And East Asia (ASEAN+3) (March 2020)
This study builds upon the earlier version by Lyons, Su and Neo (2019) titled “A review of research on marine plastics in Southeast Asia: Who does what?” which focused on ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).
This new study provides an updated review and extends the geographic scope to three neighbouring Asian countries: The People’s Republic of China (China), Japan, and the Republic of Korea (Korea). They are referred to together as ASEAN+3. It is divided into two parts.
Part1 focuses first on the status of scientific research on and understanding of pollution from marine plastics in ASEAN+3, including a regional summary of status. Second, it reviews and discusses the mandates, approach and status of work by international and regional intergovernmental bodies as well as relevant regional public-private and fully private initiatives that seek to combat pollution from marine plastics.
Part2 is a gap analysis between scientific research and information needs for policy-making purposes, with a particular focus on the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) of the Coordinating Body of the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) whilst considering also the work of other regional bodies. This part also discusses regulatory approaches and obstacles to combat pollution from marine plastic based on four reviews on this. Recommendations on research needed and ways to improve the science-policy-law interface are provided at the end.
This study was prepared by a research team from several research centres at the National University of Singapore (NUS) under the coordination of the Centre for International Law (CIL), support from the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the SEA circular project implemented by COBSEA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as support by the Singapore Maritime Institute under CIL-MPA Oceans Governance Research Programme – Project ID SMI-2019-MA-03. The report was prepared with the aim of supporting and strengthening marine litter research and informing more robust policy making, in line with the COBSEA Regional Action on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) and other regional actions plans applicable in ASEAN+3.
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Part 1 - Status of Research
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SECTION 1 – Methodology
1. Geographic scope
2. Scientific research
3. Research in international law, intergovernmental organisations and policy
SECTION 2 – Marine Plastic Research in ASEAN+3 Member States
1. Brunei Darussalam
4. Lao PDR
10. Viet Nam
11. The People’s Republic of China
12. Republic of Korea
14. Regional summary
SECTION 3 – Global intergovernmental and/or institutional policy frameworks, guidelines and initiatives relevant to Southeast Asia
1. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
2. The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
3. Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics
4. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
5. Plastic pollution from shipping activities at the IMO
6. Dumping of waste at sea (LC/LP)
7. Toxic contaminants: Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions
8. FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI)
10. INTERPOL: Illegal trade of plastic
11. Other UN organisations and global intergovernmental bodies involved in combatting pollution from marine plastics
12. Comparative analysis
SECTION 4 – Regional programmes and research by regional intergovernmental bodies
1. Chart of global and regional intergovernmental bodies
2. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
3. Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA)
4. Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)
5. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
6. Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF)
7. Regional foreign bodies (APFIC & SEAFDEC)
9. Archipelagic and Island States Forum (AIS Forum)
10. Comparative analysis
SECTION 5 – Funding organisations to states in ASEAN+3
1. World Bank
2. Support to ASEAN states provided by the Commonwealth
3. The Asian Development Bank (ADB)
4. Norwegian public funding agencies: NIVA and NORAD
5. Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
SECTION 6 – Notable partnerships, non-institutional research programmes and public-private initiatives in the region
1. Global hybrid partnership with international organisations
2. Organised and sustained international clean-up efforts – civil society
3. Visible scientific research institutions and efforts
4. Public-private and private-dominated partnerships
5. Comparative analysis
Part 2 - Gap Analysis and Recommendations
SECTION 1 – COBSEA RAP-MALI and the international legal framework
1. Goals, objectives and actions of the COBSEA RAP-MALI
2. COBSEA RAP-MALI and international legal frameworks
SECTION 2 – COBSEA RAP-MALI and published research
1. Support provided by public research to COBSEA RAP-MALI research activities
2. Research gaps to support implementation of COBSEA RAP MALI
SECTION 3 – COBSEA RAP-MALI and other regional action plan and frameworks
1. COBSEA RAP-MALI and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris
2. Comparison with the ASEAN+3 Marine Plastic Debris Cooperative Initiative
3. Comparison with the East Asia Summit (EAS) Manila Plan of Action
SECTION 4 – Domestic policies and regulatory approaches and obstacles
1. Scope of analysis
2. Regulatory approaches to plastic bags, single-use plastics and packaging
3. Challenges linked to different approaches to plastic recycling and biodegradable plastics and other plastic alternatives
4. Upstream source restrictions
6. Overall findings for ASEAN+3
SECTION 5 – Overall findings from the review and the gap analysis
1. Research gaps
2. Legal and institutional barriers or gaps
SECTION 6 – Recommendations
1. Substantive issues in need of further research
2. Research development and coordination
3. Linkages between relevant institutions
4. Context-specific outreach and education
Acronyms, Abbreviations, Definitions, Appendices & Bibliography
Acronyms: [URL LINK]
Abbreviations: [URL LINK]
Definition: [URL LINK]
Appendix I – List of all relevant players in the marine plastic research across ASEAN+3: [URL LINK]
Appendix II – Scientific publications examined in ASEAN+3 (for countries with >30 publications): [URL LINK]
Appendix III – Detailed analysis of research foci in ASEAN+3: [URL LINK]
Appendix IV – Plastic contaminants (polymer types, associated and sorbed contaminants): [URL LINK]
Appendix V – List of scientific publications not examined in this study, but association and relevant to marine plastic research in ASEAN+3: [URL LINK]
Sponsors and Partners
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university which has nurtured generations of talent since their founding in 1905. NUS aspire to be a vital community of academics, researchers, staff, students and alumni working together in a spirit of innovation and enterprise for a better world. http://www.nus.edu.sg/
Centre of International Law (CIL) was established as a university-level research institute at the NUS in 2009, in response to the growing need for international law thought leadership and capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region. CIL’s focus areas of research and training are ocean law and policy, ASEAN law and policy, investment law and policy, and international law and practice. https://cil.nus.edu.sg/
The Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) is a centre of excellence for research, development and
consultancy in tropical marine science as well as environmental science. With its multi-disciplinary research laboratories and active international links, it handles projects relevant to physical oceanography, acoustics, marine biology, marine mammals, biofuels, water resources and climate change. https://www.tmsi.nus.edu.sg/
St. John’s Island National Marine Laboratory (SJINML) is the only offshore marine research facility in Singapore, established under the National Research Infrastructure scheme and was officially launched in 2016. The SJINML serves as a national resource and focal point for marine science expertise, supporting marine science research that meets Singapore’s future strategic national needs. http://sjinml.nus.edu.sg/
The Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) is a regional intergovernmental mechanism and one of 18 Regional Seas programmes. It is the decision-making body for the East Asian Seas Action Plan, bringing together nine countries – Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Viet Nam – in protection and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment. COBSEA focuses on marine pollution, ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning and management, and ocean governance. The COBSEA Secretariat is hosted by Thailand and administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). www.cobsea.org
The Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is a multi-stakeholder partnership that provides a unique mechanism to bring together all actors working to prevent marine litter and microplastics, with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience and advancing solutions to this pressing global issue. Its mission is to protect the global marine environment, human wellbeing and animal welfare by addressing the global problem of marine litter, in line with Target 14.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Any entity working to prevent and reduce marine litter can join the Partnership at: www.gpmarinelitter.org
The SEA circular project is implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Swedish Government. SEA circular works in partnership with governments, businesses, civil society, academia, and international partners to reduce and prevent plastic pollution. The initiative promotes market-based solutions and enabling policies to transform plastic value-chain management, strengthens the science base for informed decision making, engages consumers and disadvantaged groups through targeted outreach, and leverages COBSEA’s regional mechanisms to tackle the transboundary challenge of marine litter. www.sea-circular.org
1. NUS Satellite Research Project on the South China Sea
CIL led and coordinated a special project on the South China Sea entitled ‘Multidisciplinary Satellite Survey of the Shallow Geographic Feature in the SCS’. This Project involved a satellite image-based mapping of all visible insular geographic features in the SCS, including natural and man-made features, description of their geographic characteristics, natural coastal and marine habitats as well as land cover. It seeks to provide baseline information for further research on marine ecosystems and biodiversity of insular geographic features in the South China Sea.
Click here to access data obtained from this Project.
CIL-organised conference on 'Transboundary Pollution: Evolving Issues of International Law and Policy
This conference has been organized in 2014 and followed by the publication of an edited volume of the same title in 2015. The conference and publication examined the international legal principles governing transboundary pollution; the application of the state responsibility doctrine in the context of transboundary pollution; the international legal framework established to address specific types of transboundary pollution, including pollution of the marine environment and shared water resources, nuclear pollution and air pollution; and case studies of European, Asian and Southeast Asian countries to demonstrate how the legal framework has been applied in practice within a regional context.
Research Project on Treaty Law and Practice
CIL is engaged in a project to carry out training and research on treaty law and practice. The project aims to improve treaty law and practice in Southeast Asia countries and ASEAN and to publish a handbook on best treaty practice for a broad readership worldwide in governments, international organisations and beyond. The project began with CIL and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law (the Institute) collaboration in holding an International Workshop on Treaty Law and Practice for government officials in Southeast Asia and ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) officials that took place in Singapore in January 2012. CIL and the Institute have engaged treaty experts with extensive practical experience in dealing with treaties to provide advice and contribute to the 2012 Workshop and the initial writing of the handbook.
At the end of its collaboration with the Institute, CIL and the ASEC, with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, held a second workshop on Treaty Management in International Organisations: Lessons Learnt and ASEAN Practice in Jakarta in December 2016. Apart from contributing to the common understanding on treaty management work in international organisations, especially the ASEC, the second workshop forms an indispensable part in the drafting of the handbook as it discussed the ins and outs of a treaty office in managing its organisation’s instruments.
Both the trainings and the drafting of the handbook have engaged treaty experts with extensive practical experience in dealing with treaties, in particular Jill Barrett, then Senior Research Fellow of the Institute and former Legal Counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Paul Barnett, then Visiting Fellow of the Institute and former Head of Treaty Section, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and Gerard Limburg, former Director of Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. CIL is also grateful for the participation of Elise Cornu and Ana Gomez Heredero, the then and current Head of the Treaty Office Unit, Council of Europe, and Anthony Wetherall, CIL Senior Research Fellow and former Legal Officer at the International Atomic Energy Agency. CIL is also supported in this project by a team of ASEAN Law and Policy Research Fellows and Associates. Associate Professor Robert Beckman, CIL Head of Ocean Law and Policy, is co-authoring the handbook together with Jill Barrett.
Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore
- Associate Professor Robert C BECKMAN
Head, Ocean Law and Policy Programme
- Dr Hao Duy PHAN
Senior Research Fellow
- Ms Ranyta YUSRAN
- Mr Hadyu IKRAMI (until 2018)
British Institute of International and Comparative Law
- Ms Jill BARRETT (until 2016)
- Mr Paul BARNETT (until 2012)
- Mr Gerard LIMBURG (until 2012)
External Resource Persons
- Ms Jill BARRETT
- Ms Elise CORNU (Council of Europe) (until 2012)
- Ms Ana Gómez HEREDERO (Council of Europe) (until 2017)
- Ms Rena LEE (Attorney-General’s Chambers, Singapore) (until 2017)
- Dr Tull TRAISORAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand) (until 2017)
- Mr Un SOVANNASAM (ASEAN Secretariat) (until 2017)
- Associate Professor Robert C BECKMAN