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OCEAN Sustainability Pathways for Achieving Conflict Transformation.


OCEAN Sustainability Pathways for Achieving Conflict Transformation.




  • Ongoing


Project website

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Feb 2020 - Feb 2023

Type of action

Joint Call


OCEAN Sustainability Pathways for Achieving Conflict Transformation

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, trans-disciplinary, 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.

Project consortium

Principal Investigator(s)

Michael Gilek, Södertörn University, Sweden


Peter Arbo, University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
Ronaldo Adriano Christofoletti, Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil
Frank Dukes, Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, United States
Devanathan Parthasarathy, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
Merle Sowman, University of Cape Town, South Africa


São Paulo Research Foundation, Brazil
Ministry of Earth Sciences, India
The Research Council of Norway, Norway
National Research Foundation, South Africa
Swedish Research Council for Env, Agric Sci & Spatial Planning, Sweden
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, United States/international
National Science Foundation, United States