Ecological Integrity and Third World Approaches to International Law

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International legal scholars who see within international law the potential to address global ecological integrity issues often draw upon the natural law tradition as an analytical tool. This chapter will explore whether another analytical tool – Third World Approaches to International Law, or TWAIL – could enrich a natural law approach to international legal analysis of eco-integrity problems. In particular, this chapter will demonstrate how TWAIL can serve to draw attention to the importance of prioritizing the perspectives of subaltern communities who tread lightly upon the earth, and at the same time explicitly highlight the problematic nature of over-consumption by the rich.

International law divides global ecological issues into different categories of harm, depending upon the spatial dimensions of the problem. This paper will focus on ecological integrity issues that arise in the transnational harm context, that is, in cases where despite the “activity and physical damage” all occurring within a single host state, there is a clear “transnational involvement” due to the export of capital from a state of origin or home state. A focus on transnational harm is useful in part because proposals put forward in home states to regulate transnational corporate conduct for compliance with international human rights and environmental norms are often met with claims this would be a neocolonialist or imperialist violation of host state sovereignty. These claims can only be met by exploring what Third World states – and Third World legal scholars – would have to say in response.

This chapter will first examine the different ways in which international law categorizes global ecological harms, and then provide further detail on the problem of transnational harm. Secondly, TWAIL will be situated within a selection of theoretical or methodological approaches invoked in the analysis of global ecological problems under international law. Finally, the chapter will elaborate the contributions that TWAIL might make when seeking solutions to global ecological integrity problems in the transnational harm context.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Globalisation and Ecological Integrity in Science and International Law
    This volume returns to one of the major themes of the Global Ecological Integrity Group: the interface between integrity as a scientific concept and a number of important issues in ethics, international law and public health. The main scholars who have worked on these topics over the years return to re-examine these dimensions from the viewpoint of global governance.
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