environmental protection, human rights, people’s rights, international law
“The genesis and development of international environmental law lay in two main principles corresponding to different historical phases; the first stage, the protection of the environment at the international level, mainly coincided with the prevention of transboundary harm, as ruled in 1941 by the United States/Canada Arbitral Tribunal in the leading Trail Smelter case. However, the environment was not perceived, per se, as a value worthy of protection; its relevance was mainly instrumental to the safeguarding of the economically tangible interests of States.
In the second phase, whose starting point may be traced to 1972, the international community became conscious of the crucial role of the environment in the survival and preservation of the human being. Several international agreements relating to key topics of environmental protection (e.g. climate change, prevention of pollution, preservation of water resources, institution of internationally special protected areas, protection of biodiversity, or endangered species,) have been stipulated, and the concept of the environment as a “common concern of mankind”, whose protection constitutes the object of an erga omnes obligation, has emerged in the framework of the international legal system. At this stage, the prevailing vision of the environment lies in the vital role it plays in guaranteeing, both in the present and the future, good living conditions for humankind.”
(2004) 10 (1) African Yearbook of International Law Online 63-108