Environmental Principles and Change in International Law and Politics
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Since the 1972 Declaration at United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, and subsequently the 1992 United Nations Declaration on Environment and Development, environmental principles have been frequently used at the international level in different institutional forums made up of a variety of actors including States and transnational corporations. There are a range of environmental principles which are either abstracted from broader episteme or established as open-textured norms within international environmental law and politics. Given how often they are used at the international level in negotiations, agreements, codes of conduct, or litigation within international courts and tribunals, this work studies whether as abstract and open-textured norms they have a role and function in changing international law and politics. It draws on the concept of social learning, in contrast to socialisation, as the dynamic for changing international law and politics. Environmental principles have to interplay with or constitute processes that can socially persuade or influence actors to establish interlocking beliefs, or to collectively identify with a particular culture. As such, what matters is how groups of actors create meaning from norms in their direct and diffuse interactions with each other, rather than whether individual actors comply with their obligations in accordance with environmental principles. Using three different case studies this work argues that environmental principles are significant for changing international law and politics. Their role and function in this process is relative to the weight and meaning that groups of actors give to them. As abstract and open-textured norms, environmental principles function as frames or structures for ideas and discourses which groups use to create meaning from. Their specific role and function during the interactions of actors’ is variable and depends on how they interplay with or constitute the processes that steer social learning. In this way, they can for example privilege certain discourses or provide groups with the creative impetus for the approaches that they might take to issues. Alternatively, they can establish the terms for how actors’ will socially associate a particular kind of membership within groups. Their versatility and flexibility in ideologically steering the common and collective responses of actors’ to protecting the environment from harm is essential to their significance in changing international law and politics.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Law
Item Access Status
United Nations Declaration on Environment and Development