The George Washington University Law School Conference on International Environmental Dispute Resolutions (April 15-17, 1999)

The George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

The George Washington University Law School Conference on International Environmental Dispute Resolutions (April 15-17, 1999)


I. INTRODUCTION

On April 15-17, 1999, the Third Annual Environmental Law Conference at The George Washington University (GWU) Law School brought together an extraordinary group of international environmental experts and interested parties to discuss a critical issue in international environmental law: whether there is a need for a separate international environmental court (IEC). Sponsors of the conference included the GWU Institute for the Environment, under the distinguished leadership of Professor Laurent Hourcle; the International Court of the Environment Foundation (ICEF), whose delegation was led by ICEF Founder and Director, the Honorable Amadeo Postiglione, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Italy; and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), represented primarily by Durwood Zaelke.

The Conference attracted participants from a wide range of backgrounds. The worldwide academic community was strongly represented by several recognized international and environmental law experts, including Dr. Alfred Rest of the University of Cologne (Germany); Dr. Eduardo A. Pigretti of the University of Buenos Aires; Professor Raul Sanchez of St. Mary's University School of Law; Professor Alfredo Liberatori of the Italian National Research Council, and Professors Louis Sohn, Laurent Hourcle, Sean Murphy, and Arnold Reitze of GWU Law School. Dr. Priscilla Reining, Chair of the American Anthropological Association, also attended. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (the Hague) was represented by its Secretary-General Designate, Honorable Tjaco van den Hout, and participants from the U.S. government included Brad Campbell of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, Michael Penders of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Interior. In addition to CIEL, other public interest and international organizations in attendance included the Center on International Cooperation (Cesare Romano); World Watch (Hillary French); United Earth (Claes Nobel); the United Nations Foundation, the Institute for Global Environmental Issues; the Virginia Environmental Endowment Jerry McCarthy); the Chronic Illness Research Foundation (James J. Tuite), and the U.S. Catholic Conference. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank were also represented. The private sector was also well represented, including delegations from Deloitte & Touche and several major U.S. law firms.

II. SUMMARY OF CONFERENCE PANELS

A. Overview of International Environmental Trends

The first panel of the Conference, chaired by Hillary French (World Watch) discussed environmental trends from a scientific standpoint and strongly suggested that serious signs of an impending global environmental disaster are unfolding. Factors discussed included: (a) the drastic increase in world population; (b) a seventeen-fold increase in gross world product and industrial expansion; (c) temperature increases and their impact on food product, sea levels, and weather patterns; and (d) the loss of biological diversity (fourteen percent of all plants and twenty-five percent of all animal species are threatened with extinction). The panel concluded that the global state of the environment may actually be far worse than scientific models have projected. This conclusion was based primarily on the rationale that once an environmental ecosystem suffers severe stress and degradation it is difficult to reverse the trend. For example, although the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layers has led to an 80% decline in CFCs since 1988, we will continue to suffer from ozone depletion for the indefinite future.

B. The Structure of International Law to Protect the Environment: Developing International Regimes for Environmental Protection and the Need for Multinational Dispute Mechanisms

The Conference's second panel, chaired by Durwood Zaelke of CIEL, surveyed the developing international regimes for environmental protection and the need for international dispute resolution mechanisms. …

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