International Law and Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice

International Law and Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice

International Law and Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice

International Law and Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice


The concept of sustainable development has attracted considerable attention in recent years and has become of pivotal importance, not only in scientific and political discourse but also, increasingly, in the practice of states and of relevant international organisations. Since 1992 and within a remarkably short period of time, sustainable development has been endorsed and recognised in a number of instruments of international law. Thus, it is incorporated in various environmental treaties as well as in international fisheries agreements, the 1995 Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and EU law. Sustainable development and related concepts also feature in a number of international judicial decisions of the 1990s, for example those of the International Court of Justice and the WTO Appellate Body. The chapters assembled in this book illustrate various aspects of efforts of policy makers, regional and national interest groups to invoke and rely upon international law for the realisation of the objective of sustainable development. They deal in particular with recent examples of the practice of states and of relevant international organisations, especially in such areas as international trade, foreign investment regulation, human rights and natural resources and waste management. Furthermore, some chapters are dedicated to a review of relevant practice at the regional and national level.


Bruno Simma

Judge of the International Court of Justice

Major concerns as well as interests beget ideas, then concepts, principles, eventually practice, practice of law, at least sometimes. These are the familiar ways of all law including international law, everywhere and at all times. The present book on International Law and Sustainable Development. Principles and Practice is a vivid testimony in favour of that process.

International legal doctrine, while forever seeking to establish or at least paint certainty and predictability of legal order, has recently had to grapple with relatively unfamiliar, possibly somewhat unsettling phenomena of international life, to wit the proliferation of states, international organisations and of non-state actors, the “opening up” of supposedly “self-contained régimes” (such as that of the World Trade Organisation) and of the classical system of sources of international law, to name but a few.

Two of the most important legal questions arising from these changes of international socio-political reality, so to speak, constitute the central theoretical theme underlying all chapters of this copious collaborative work. The first is the emergence of evocative ideas relating to at least two pressing global problems, environmental degradation and poverty. The second concerns the still somewhat controversial contention, made at least implicitly throughout the book, that the principle of “sustainable development” is amply supported and reenforced by numerous instances of “practice”, justifying its elevation into the pantheon of international law.

Principles and practice of international law, its raw material, have one thing in common: both may develop from a state of amorphous flux until, after meanderings, and metamorphoses – “Prinzipienwanderung”, “Verdichtung von Praxis” – they may crystallize as the (legal) crux of a subject matter, perhaps enjoying unquestioned even unchallengeable authority in law. Naturally, while . . .

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