The Role of International Courts and Tribunals in Protecting Environmental Global Commons and Common Interests

The focus of this seminar will be to discuss and analyze if and how international courts have been dealing with the protection of environmental global commons or common interest norms.


Environmental global commons, perhaps more than any other object of international law, require multilateral solutions for their protection. In some areas such solutions (partly) exist, e.g. climate change or the protection of terrestrial biodiversity. Other aspects, such as the protection of biodiversity in the High Seas, still remain unaddressed by international treaties.

Different from environmental global commons which are understood to be found outside the areas of national jurisdiction, common environmental interests can apply to environmental aspects that are covered by national jurisdiction, but are of importance to a larger set of states (and other actors) than only the territorial state. However, the protection of common environmental interests and global commons may require regulation both within and beyond areas of national territorial jurisdiction.

States may seek recourse to international courts in order to promote the protection of these common resources and/or interests concerning the environment. The purpose may be to resolve concrete disputes, develop international law through judicial law-making, monitor or promote compliance with existing law.

The protection of global commons and of common interests through international courts raises several questions. These range from the definition of such commons or interests, the parties’ objectives which an IC would service, the likely performance of such norms and the IC with regard to promoting the ultimate objectives, the identification, application and interpretation of norms of protection, to procedural issues of, for example, standing, legal interest (e.g. erga omnes/partes), burden of proof and third party claims.



The seminar will aim at discussing and analyzing if and how international courts have been dealing with the protection of environmental global commons or common interest norms. Which questions were addressed by these courts, which legal issues proved to be controversial and which aspects may have raised issues of legitimacy as regards the ICs’ mandate, their procedures, their judgments and interpretations, or their efficacy?


Expected outcomes

It is hoped that the seminar will stimulate discussions and exchanges that can result in a series of papers to be published in a legal journal. At the same time, valuable and critical input will be sought to a PluriCourts-based research proposal, which will be disseminated in advance and presented and discussed during the seminar.


Participants would be expected to

1.     Present a think piece or abstract on an aspect of their choice in relation to the topic of the seminar;

2.     Comment on the disseminated draft research proposal; and

3.     Consider the expansion of the think piece/abstract into an academic paper.


Tags: International Environmental Law
Published Sep. 13, 2017 11:22 AM - Last modified Sep. 13, 2017 11:22 AM