The “Participatory Revolution” in International Environmental Law (K. Raustiala)


Kal Raustiala


International environmental law, NGOs



A distinguishing characteristic of environmental problems — that they adhere to ecosystems and geographic features rather than political boundaries — often renders national and local actions ineffective and frequently necessitates international cooperation. While international environmental law dates back almost 100 years, the last quarter century has witnessed exponential growth in the number and complexity of multilateral legal instruments aimed at environmental protection. Environmental law has become “one of the most dynamic areas of the international legal system,”  and has given rise to many substantive and procedural innovations in international law. Treaties constitute the core of the body of international environmental law. Treaties are by definition interstate compacts, and generally only states may negotiate them and undertake their obligations. But while states have traditionally been the dominant actors in the creation and maintenance of conventional international law, recent changes in international environmental law have afforded a historically unparalleled opportunity for participation by private, nongovernmental organizations (“NGOs”).  As has long been the case in domestic environmental law, NGOs are now major actors in the formulation, implementation, and enforcement of international environmental law.


(1997) 12 Harvard International Law Review 537


The “Participatory Revolution” in International Environmental Law