About the Project

Conceived in March 2019 with the aim to establish a new soft-law instrument bringing together and detailing all applicable international law which applies in the maritime space in defence of fundamental human rights at sea,  the ‘Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea®’ (“the Declaration”) reflects existing law and looks to explore its practical application throughout the maritime environment.

Under the collective approach of the independent Human Rights at Sea Think Tank platform, the Declaration will be transparently and publicly developed by a core team of experts, contributors, external observers and engaged stakeholders who will provide expertise, supporting references, independent oversight and funding.

The initial (English) Version 1 was published on 5 April 2019 as the first step in the instrument's development.

"The City of Geneva, as a global economic hub, the headquarters of the United Nations and an important flag state, has a specific and direct interest in the guarantee and protection of human rights on land and at sea”. The declaration "will be considered in the coming years as a fundamental initiative."

Mayor of Geneva Sami Kanaan, 21 May 2019

Timeline of Development

  • March 21, 2019 - First Drafting Session of the Geneva Declaration

    On the 21-22 March 2019, the core drafting team met for the first time hosted by the Graduate Institute in Geneva Switzerland. The first meeting was attended by UN Agencies, leading civil rights organisations, humanitarian NGOs and leading academics. The aim was to discuss the concept of a Declaration, the need, the proposed contents, and to draft a skeleton for the first version.


  • April 4, 2019 - Declaration briefed at International Maritime Law Institute: 4 April 2019

    The Declaration was briefed to the Second Human Rights and Law of the Sea conference held at the World Maritime University International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) in Malta on 4 April 2019.

  • April 5, 2019 - Version 1 of the Geneva Declaration Published: 5 April 2019

    The first version of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea was published on 5 April 2019 by the charity’s Think Tank.

    Read Press Release

  • April 5, 2019 - Declaration briefed at World Maritime University: 5 April 2019

    The Declaration was briefed at the 2019 Empowering Women in the Maritime Community conference at the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, by legal researcher, Sayedeh Hajar Hejazi.

  • May 17, 2019 - London Stakeholder Briefing: 17 May 2019

    On 17th May 2019, members of the core drafting team held a briefing to invited stakeholders within the London-based shipping community, UN agencies, maritime welfare organisations and a leading flag State.

    Read the Calling Notice

  • May 21, 2019 - Declaration endorsed by the Mayor of Geneva: 21 May 2019

    On the 21st May 2019, the City of Geneva formally supported and endorsed the development of Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea in a signing ceremony held at the Palace Eynard in Geneva between the Mayor of Geneva, Mr. Sami Kanaan, and the Founder of the charity, Human Rights at Sea, Mr. David Hammond.

    Read the Press Release

  • May 21, 2019 - Commencement of drafting of Version 2 and annexes: 21-22 May 2019

    Version 2 commenced first drafting round at Villa Moynier, home of the Geneva Academy between 21-22 May 2019. In attendance were core drafting team members, Head of the Geneva Academy, UN agency representatives and academic scholars from Italy, Switzerland and the UK.

  • August 12, 2019 - RTS Geneva feature Geneva Declaration

    Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), the Geneva based Swiss public broadcasting organisation introduced and featured the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea during their 8 a.m. news feature this morning. RTS is in charge of the production and broadcasting of radio programming in French for Switzerland providing national and international news broadcasts. More details here.

  • November 20, 2019 - Swiss Basel Parliament passes vote for support to Geneva Declaration

    Basel Parliament, Switzerland, passes resolution brought by MP Sarah Wyss to support the Geneva Declaration as a future signatory subject to final Canton agreement. Official records can be reviewed HERE.


  • November 28, 2019 - Version 2 text drafted in Italy at the Università di Milano-Bicocca 27-28 November 2019

    The Second Version of the Geneva Declaration has been drafted by the core drafting team at the Università di Milano-Bicocca, Italy over the period 27-28 November 2019. Review of the text is ongoing with expected publishing in January 2020.

  • December 10, 2019 - Geneva Declaration On-line Platform Launched on World Human Rights Day 2019

    10 December 2019. World Human Rights Day. Today is the official launch of the online platform. Human Rights at Sea News Report.

  • November 19, 2020 - Geneva Declaration highlighted by Europeche for ILO 188 Webinar

    Europeche has adopted the use of the four principles of the Geneva Declaration as highlighted on 19 Dec 20 in the joint ETF and Europeche webinar on the Working in Fishing Convention. Full session is now available to watch on YouTube.

  • February 26, 2021 - Operational Annex under review

    On Friday 26th February, Prof. Dr.iur. Anna Petrig, Prof. Irini Papanicolopulu, Prof. Steven Haines, Dr. Sofia Galani, David Hammond and Dr. Elisabeth Mavropoulou, members of the core drafting team of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea, virtually convened to review the drafting of the Operational Annex of the final version of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea.

    The Operational Annex will be the most challenging of the supporting annexes to the main document (Version 1), as it will focus on the detail and the applicability of the four fundamental principles underpinning the Declaration, those being:

    1. Human rights apply at sea to exactly the same degree and extent that they do on land.
    2. All persons at sea, without any distinction, are entitled to their human rights.
    3. There are no maritime specific rules allowing derogation from human rights.
    4. All human rights established under treaty and customary international law must be respected at sea.

    Related issues under review

    • Human rights’ protections to be applied by Port states.
    • Coastal states and their application of human rights.
    • Flag states’ obligations and responsibilities, particularly in regards to the application of human rights on board vessels.
    • Human rights protections on the High Seas (International waters).
    • Violations of non-derogable human rights at sea.
    • The role(s) of International Organisations as well as of other non-state actors in the protection of human rights at sea.
    • Human rights at sea and Business and Human Rights instrument development and application.
    • Labour rights under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006.
    • Effective control over people in distress at sea.
    • State and non-state actor responsibilities in Search and Rescue (SAR) Zones.

    The development of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea is ongoing with revisions to the Version 1 draft continuing and expanding to include a commentary, evidence of need and a commercial legal review to be undertaken by a non-partisan grouping of international law firms specialising in maritime law.

    Anastasia Papapetrou is supporting the programme co-ordination.

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