The Evolution of Sustainable Development in International Law: Inception, Meaning and Status


In a relatively short time the concept of “sustainable development” has become firmly established in the field of international law. The World Commission on Environment and Development concisely defined sustainable development as follows: “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This definition takes into account the needs of both the present and future generations as well as the capacity of the earth and its natural resources which by clear implication should not be depleted by a small group of people (in industrialized countries).
The aim of this book is threefold : to review the genesis and to clarify the meaning of the concept of sustainable development, as well as to assess its status within public international law. Furthermore, it examines the legal principles that have emerged in the pursuit of sustainable development. Lastly, it assesses to what extent the actual evolution of law demonstrates the balance and integration with all pertinent fields of international law as urged by the Rio, Johannesburg, and World Summit documents. This is the second volume in the Hague Academy of International Law Pocket Book series; it contains the text of the course given at the Hague Academy by Professor Schrijver.

Cet ouvrage répond à trois objectifs : examiner la naissance du concept de développement durable, clarifier sa signification et évaluer son statut dans le droit international public. Il examine également les principes juridiques nés de la poursuite du développement durable. Enfin, il examine l’évolution actuelle du droit par rapport aux exigences énoncées à Rio, à Johannesburg et au cours du dernier sommet mondial en ce qui concerne l’intégration du concept de développement durable dans tous les domaines pertinents du droit international.

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Dr. N. J. Schrijver is Professor of International Law and Academic Director of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University. He is a member of the High-Level Task Force on the Right to Development, established by the UN Human Rights Council. Professor Schrijver has appeared in various proceedings before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and specialized international tribunals.
List of abbreviations;
Chapter I. Introduction
Chapter II. Early formation: sustainable development avant la lettre
Chapter III. Sustainable development: consolidation in Rio and beyond
Chapter IV. Grounding of sustainable development in international law
Chapter V. International law principles in the pursuit of fostering sustainable development
Chapter VI. Conclusions: the challenges to sustainable development and to its further evolution in international law
Chapter VII. Final observation: the role and nature of public international law in the pursuit of sustainable development;
Table of treaties; Table of cases; Appendix. ILA New Delhi Declaration of Principles of International Law relating to Sustainable Development; Select Bibliography; About the author.
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