Blue Economy in UN Convention on Law of The Sea


Covering almost 70% of the earth surface, the ocean provides plenty of livelihood sources for millions of people in the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the ocean economy’s added value will contribute to $3 trillion of global economy with employment reaching up to 40 million in 2030. However, the ocean faces tremendous problems that threaten their robust ecosystems and their capacity to sustain the commodities and services that we all rely on. This necessitates a change from traditional methods to innovative blue solutions that are good for people, the environment, and the economy (Peretti, 2023).

The 17,508 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago are linked by waters that account for over 70% of the nation’s total land area, placing Indonesia as the fourth-longest coastline in the world, at 99,000 km (INADIS, 2016). Due to the large volume of water, Indonesia has big potential in “blue capital” and creating the urgency to adopt the norm of Blue Economy in order to promote long-term investment in sustainable ocean economic development. The blue economy as part of the sustainable development norm relies on development without exploiting natural resources and the environment excessively. Through the Blue Economy, Indonesia is given the opportunity to reduce disparity between regions and create better opportunities for no limitation in genders and income groups. Three pillars of the Blue Economy are a resilient marine environment, competitive marine-based industries, and attractive coastal areas (Voyer et al., 2018). Constructivism perspective in International Relations recognizing the principal role of international organizations and its products including international law in the norm diffusion. The Norm Life Cycle model introduced by Finnemore and Sikkink will be used to analyze the effort of Indonesia implementing the Blue Economy scheme through the Korea-Indonesia Marine Technology Cooperation Research Center (MTCRC) establishment. As the most prominent theory to explain the process in norm diffusion, The Norm Life Cycle model will explain how the process of norm diffusion occurs in three stages namely norm emergence; norm acceptance; and norm institutionalization (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998).

Norm Emergence: The Concept of Blue Economy and MTCRC Establishment

The change for blue solutions as mentioned before in the introduction then become the basis for the emergence Blue Economy that covers various sectors ranging from fisheries sector, marine product processing industry, maritime logistics, maritime trading, shipbuilding industry, marine tourism, biotechnology, renewable energy, water resources management, human resources including education and research and other sectors which correlated with sustainable development. ((Bappenas), 2021).

The Blue Economy has been mentioned implicitly in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or also well-known as ‘Constitution of the Sea’ for its overarching framework for governing maritime space, resources and activities. Article 61 paragraph (3) UNCLOS states that,”States shall take measures necessary to maintain or restore populations of harvested species at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield, as qualified by relevant environmental and economic factors, including the economic needs of coastal fishing communities…”which enable states to manage their maritime space, resources and activities while fostering and facilitating international and regional cooperation in important cross-cutting areas such as marine scientific exploration and maritime technology transfer (Siahaan & Widiatedja, 2023). After the issuance of UNCLOS, The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or RIO+20 held in June 2012 followed up in aligning the economic and environmental goals of the global community.

Norm emergence related to the national sovereignty over marine spaces and the resources that are contained within them through a blue economy policy in the form of ratification of the UN Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Treaty in 1982 (Kildow and McIlgorm, 2010) through Law Number 17 of 1985 concerning Ratification of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and then affirming Law Number 6 of 1996 concerning Indonesian Waters. Referring to the Norm Life Cycle model, those who act as actors to distribute norms are called norm entrepreneurs. The group belonging to the initiator of the norms in this study is the UNCLOS state parties. The norm then  transformed into the cooperation between Korea and Indonesia as the embodiment of commitment from both countries in UNCLOS through the establishment of MTCRC through Implementing Arrangement signing on the Joint Research Center for Marine Science and Technology between Korea and Indonesia in 9th May 2018 as the significant achievement of MoU Between the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Republic of Korea and the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment Indonesia signed on May 16 2016 (MTCRC, 2018).

Norm Cascade: Blue Economy for Sustainability Norm Dissemination through MTCRC Project Implementation

When the norms have been accepted internationally, the next step is socializing the norm to the public to make sure the implementation of the norms went as sexpected. In this stage, a new norm is said to be cascading when the general public is nearly ready to adopt it owing to international legitimacy, conformity pressures, or political leaders supporting the notion for their own self- esteem. The role of state, organization, and network are so dominant here (Rum, 2016). Institutions collaborating for the MTCRC are the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries Republic of Korea, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology and Institut Teknologi Bandung.

The approach being used in norm dissemination in MTCRC study cases is socialization including participatory approaches. This can be seen in the project has been done by MTCRC such as: (1) The Kai Island Survey  on 4-9 November 2021 for finding potential seaweed cultivation area for supporting Southeast Maluku Regency as a Seaweed Estate location; (2) Cirebon Coastal Cleanup Campaign on 3 September 2019 involving students and Cirebon local residents; (3) 14 capacity building training in Marine Equipment since 2019; (4) Signing MoU for the Cooperation on Marine Science and Technology with 4 universities in Indonesia; (5) 9 events hosted/co- hosted/attended by MTCRC with ±2074 total participants; (6) Developing Official Development Assistance Project for the Smart Aquaculture and Integrated Ocean Fisheries Technology Training Center; (7) Korean Culture Class Program held by MTCRC in Cooperation with The King Sejong Institute (MTCRC, 2022). The community involvement had the intention to let the community know the potential in the ocean and how to maximize those potential without exploiting it.

Internalization:  Transformation  in  Public  Mindset  after  Project  Implementation  and Community Participation

The internalization stage of the norm might bring various changes starting from the mindset to changes in behavior patterns as the result of the existence of trust, especially the community towards programs formed through top-down adjustment of norms. The trust can be formed due to project implementation benefiting the community and their involvement in it (Setiawan & Rudiany, 2020). As the program is under government instructions, communities gain the same sense of responsibility and compliance. This can be seen in the positive response by the increasing participants in the events held by MTCRC, showing norms that arise and are made as a result of certain problems to become something that is taken for granted by the community.


The establishment of MTCRC can be seen as the conformity of international norms with domestic norms in a top-down manner. UNCLOS provides the basis for its state parties to cooperate, create policy and agreement related to sustainability of the marine resources. The norm is then adopted by Indonesia through ratification, followed by the project implementation by the MTCRC until it is internalized in the community. However, there is always room for potential challenges especially for Indonesia who has not fully developed the renewable energy, bio-economy and biotechnology sectors optimally. This due to limited researchers in the marine sector which hopefully the cooperation expected to fill the gap later on. In order to support this, Indonesia should also start to put the attention in ocean literacy (Nasution, 2022) by starting to disseminate it in early age in the school so we will have more ocean-literature person in the near future.

Putu Prisca Lusiani
Putu Prisca Lusiani
Prisca is Master of Arts in International Relations Candidate at Universitas Gadjah Mada. Her interests cover public diplomacy, Southeast Asia studies and human security related issues.