Establishing international environmental court of justice

In 1989, 24 heads of state from around the world agreed that a High Authority should be established to set an internationally binding policy framework for behaviour by governments and the private sector in the field of environment, which should be accorded regulatory and enforcement powers, subject to control by the International Court of Justice. This agreement, reached in a top-down approach, is yet to be implemented.

The [Johannesburg Principles on the Role of Law and Sustainable Development], were drafted by the Global Judges Symposium at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, 2002. The principles represent an action plan to strengthen the development, use and enforcement of environmentally related laws. The authors were over 100 of the world's most senior judges.

The justices recognized that the poor people and the poor nations of the world suffer most from environmental degradation, and they placed a greater responsibility on the most powerful nations of the world to protect the global environment. When environmental accidents occur, justices must determine who is responsible and apply penalties.

The justices affirmed their "commitment" to the pledge made by world leaders in the Millennium Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000 "to spare no effort to free all of humanity, and above all our children and grandchildren, from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities, and whose resources would no longer be sufficient for their needs." They expressed their "firm conviction" that the framework of international and national law that has evolved since the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, the forerunner of the current summit, provides "a sound basis for addressing the major environmental threats of the day, including armed conflict and attacks on innocent civilians."< The justices were convinced that deficiency in the knowledge, relevant skills and information in regard to environmental law is "one of the principal causes that contribute to the lack of effective implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law." The goal of their plan of action is to address these deficiencies. The action plan aims to equip judges, prosecutors, legislators and others, with the necessary skills, information and materials, through the strengthening of environmental law education in schools and universities, including research and analysis as essential to realizing sustainable development. They seek improvement in the level of public participation in environmental decision-making, as well as access to justice for the settlement of environmental disputes and the defense and enforcement of environmental rights and public access to relevant information.

Strengthening of collaboration and exchange of information on sub-regional, regional and global levels should take place. The justices called for strengthening of the capacity of organizations and initiatives, including the media, to enable a well informed public to participate more in making and enforcing environmental laws. There should be an [Ad Hoc Committee of Judges] consisting of judges representing geographical regions, legal systems and international courts and tribunals and headed by the Chief Justice of South Africa, that will keep under review and publicize the emerging environmental jurisprudence. UNEP and its partner agencies, including civil society organizations, should provide support to the [Ad Hoc Committee of Judges], and finally, the justices called upon governments of the developed countries, the donor community, and international financial institutions, to finance the implementation of these principles and the programme of work on a high priority basis.

The field of law is the poor relation in the worldwide effort to deliver a cleaner, healthier and ultimately fairer world. We have over 500 international and regional agreements, treaties and deals covering everything from the protection of the ozone layer to the conservation of the oceans and seas. Almost all, if not all, countries have national environmental laws too. But unless these are complied with, unless they are enforced, then they are little more than symbols, tokens and paper tigers.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions