Research & Publications

CISDL members are often based in different developed or developing countries, but collaborate on legal research projects and publications on the topic of international law on sustainable development.

What is International Law on Sustainable Development?

What is international law on sustainable development (or in short, ‘sustainable development law’)? Sustainable development is most commonly defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Development can be defined as a collective process of change toward improvements in quality of life for human beings and their communities, and sustainability can be seen to refer to the need for development to be integrated, socially, economically and environmentally sound, oriented to the long-term, and hence, able to last. For the CISDL, the concept of sustainable development, in international law, requires accommodation, reconciliation and integration between economic growth, social justice (including human rights) and environmental protection objectives, towards participatory improvement in collective quality of life for the benefit of both present and future generations. The term ‘sustainable development law’ describes an emerging corpus of international legal principles and instruments which address the intersections between international economic, environmental and social law (including human rights law), towards development that can last for the benefit of present and future generations. For more information, click here.

The Principles of International Law Related to Sustainable Development

In recent years discussions of the role of international law in sustainable development have expanded considerably. Increasing numbers of international treaties address global and regional sustainable development goals. The decisions of international courts and tribunals are beginning to recognise sustainable development goals and instruments explicitly, and its concepts are increasingly being invoked before national courts and tribunals around the world.

Emerging mainly from 'soft-law instruments', such as declarations and international statements, certain principles are starting to assert persuasive force. Such principles may help to resolve conflicts related to sustainable development, support the balanced integration of laws and policies at the intersection of international environmental, social and economic law, and guide implementation of operational provisions of sustainable development law.

After ten years of study and exchange, the International Law Association Committee on the Legal Aspects of Sustainable Development released the 2002 New Delhi Declaration on the Principles of International Law Related to Sustainable Development, which identifies seven principles in particular, without claiming to be exhaustive. The text of the New Delhi Declaration is provided below, and at each principle, a brief commentary is provided based on analysis based on M.C. Cordonier Segger & A. Khalfan, Sustainable Development Law: Principles, Practices and Prospects (OUP, 2004). The commentary highlights certain aspects of the principle, and underlines how it is reflected in the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the decisions of international courts and tribunals, and global treaty regimes.

New Delhi Principles

© 2017 Centre for International Sustainable Development Law