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The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development – A Commentary

December 27, 2016

Jorge E. Viñuales (editor)

Publication Year

Oxford University Press
720 pages

Oxford Commentaries on International Law

The international community has long grappled with the issue of safeguarding the environment and encouraging sustainable development, often with little result. The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development was an emphatic attempt to address this issue, setting down 27 key principles for the international community to follow. These principles define the rights of people to sustainable development, and the responsibilities of states to safeguard the common environment. The Rio Declaration established that long term economic progress required a connection to environmental protection. It was designed as an authoritative and comprehensive statement of the principles of sustainable development law, an instrument to take stock of the past international and domestic practice, a guide for the design of new multilateral environmental regimes, and as a reference for litigation.

This commentary provides an authoritative and comprehensive overview of the principles of the Declaration, written by over thirty inter-disciplinary contributors, including both leading practitioners and academics. Each principle is analysed in light of its origins and rationale. The book investigates each principle’s travaux pr?paratoires setting out the main points of controversy and the position of different countries or groups. It analyses the scope and dimensions of each principle, providing an in-depth understanding of its legal effects, including whether it can be relied before a domestic or international court. It also assesses the impact of the principles on subsequent soft law and treaty development, as well as domestic and international jurisprudence. The authors demonstrate the ways in which the principles interact with each other, and finally provide a detailed analysis of the shortcomings and future potential of each principle. This book will be of vital importance to practitioners, scholars, and students of international environmental law and sustainable development.



Table of Cases xiii
Table of Treaties and Instruments 
List of Abbreviations xxxix
List of Contributors xIv

1. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development: A Preliminary Study
Jorge E. Viñuales

2. The Philosophy of the Rio Declaration
Pierre-Marie Dupuy

3. Changing Conceptions of Environmental Risk
Jacqueline Peel

4. The Preamble of the Rio Declaration
Francesco Francioni

5. Principle 1: Human Beings and the Environment
Francesco Francioni

6. Principle 2: Prevention
Leslie-Anne Duvic-Paoli and Jorge E. Viñuales

7. Principle 3: From a Right to Development to Intergenenerational Equity
Claire Molinari

8.  Principle 4: Sustainable Development through Integration
Virginie Barral and Pierre-Marie Dupuy

9. Principle 5: Poverty Eradication
Takhmina Karimova and Christophe Golay

10. Principle 6: Special Situation of Developing Countries
Mamadou Hébié

11. Principle 7: Common but Differentiated Responsibilities
Philippe Cullet

12. Principle 8: Sustainable Patterns of Production and Consumption and Demographic Policies
Christina Voigt

13. Principle 9: Science and Technology
Sandrine Maljean-Dubois

14. Principle 10: Public Participation
Jonas Ebbesson

15. Principle 11: Environmental Legislation
Martina Kunz

16. Principle 12: The Environment and Trade
Margaret Young

17. Principle 13: Liability and Compensation
Malgosia Fitzmaurice

18. Principle 14: Dangerous Activities and Substances
Makane M. Mbengue

19. Principle 15: Precaution
Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade

20. Principle 16: The Polluter-Pays Principle
Priscilla Schwartz

21. Principle 17: Environmental Impact Assessment
Neil Craik

22. Principle 18: Notification and Assistance in Case of Emergency
Phoebe Okowa

23. Principle 19: Notification and Consultation on Activities with Transboundary Impact
Laurence Boisson de Chazournes and Komlan Sangbana

24. Principle 20: The Role of Women
Claire Mahon

25. Principle 21: The Role of the Youth
Magnus Jesko Langer

26. Principle 22: Indigenous People and Sustainable Development
Dinah Shelton

27. Principle 23: The Environment of Oppressed Peoples
Mara Tignino

28. Principle 24: The Environment in Armed Conflict
Marie-Louise Tougas

29. Principle 25: Peace, Development and Environmental Protection
Annyssa Bellal and Gilles Giacca

30. Principle 26: International Environmental Dispute Settlement
Timothy Stephens

31. Principle 27: Cooperation in a Spirit of Global Partnership
Peter H. Sand

Appendix: The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development


About the author

Jorge E. Viñuales

Professor Jorge E. Viñuales holds the Harold Samuel Chair of Law and Environmental Policy at the University of Cambridge and is the Director of the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG). He is also Of Counsel with Lalive and the Director-General of the Latin American Society of International Law.

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