James T. McClymonds
international human rights, right to a healthy environment, environmental crisis, international environmental law, state sovereignty, human values, environmental protection, development practices
This note examines the development of the international human right to a healthy environment by both determining the extent to which the right has emerged in recent years and by outlining the scope and content of the right as it has emerged. In the first section, the mounting environmental crisis and its effects on human values are described. The second section explores the extent to which explicit recognition of the right to a healthy environment has emerged as a binding international legal principle. The emerging right to development and current developments regarding the principle of state sovereignty are explored as well. In the third section, current international environmental law is examined to glean the emerging principles that define the scope and content of the right. This note concludes in the fourth section by suggesting that although several important elements of the right have emerged under international law, other critical elements have not-particularly those relating to effective implementation and the individual’s ability to bring claims. In addition, this note argues that ultimately the countervailing right to development does not present an obstacle to the emergence of the right to a healthy environment because the growing awareness of the interrelationship between development and ecological health has already led to the incorporation of environmental-protection policies into development practices. Rather, the unwillingness of governments to concede sovereign authority presents the greatest barrier to the growth of the right. Until nation-states are willing to relinquish some measure of state sovereignty, the right to a healthy environment will remain unrealized.
(1992) 37 New York Law School Law Review 583.