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The Global pact for the environment

On May 10, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by a very large majority a resolution paving the way for the negotiation of a Global Compact for the Environment (resolution A/72/L.51 "Towards a Global Compact for the Environment"). This project has its origins in an initiative by international civil  society, launched in 2017 by a "Group of Experts for the Pact" (GEP), made up of around 100 renowned jurists from 40 countries, from all legal traditions. The group of experts has drawn up a preliminary draft of the Pact, designed as a scientific contribution intended to provide food for thought for States.

2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Since 1992, legislators, administrations, jurisdictions and non-state actors worldwide have progressively contributed to the dissemination and implementation of the fundamental principles enshrined in the Declaration. The symbolic importance and role of these principles for environmental protection are indisputable. For many of them, however, these principles are essentially enshrined in the international order by texts that are only in the realm of soft law. Moreover, in the light of practice since 1992, there has been a need for clarification of the wording and scope of these principles.

The idea of a Global Compact for the Environment is not new: it has been supported by the international legal community for over 30 years. Its origins lie in the aftermath of the 1982 World Charter for Nature: the need for a gradual transition from soft law to hard law was quickly underlined by legal experts. As early as 1987, the Brundtland Commission recommended the preparation of a Universal Declaration and an International Convention for the Protection of the Environment and Sustainable Development. In the wake of this recommendation, in 1995 the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development was adopted by the World Commission on Environmental Law of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in cooperation with the International Council of Environmental Law (ICEL). The IUCN project is a major reference for the present project.

The need for such a text has long been recognized: the adoption of a genuine treaty bringing together all the founding principles of this field would give international environmental law the cornerstone it needs. International environmental law is characterized by a fragmentation of norms: there are numerous sectoral international conventions of a technical nature, with the environment as their main or secondary object, to which various international institutions are attached. The existence of sectoral conventions is not in itself a problem: each one plays a valuable role in its own field. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that environmental issues are not independent of one another: we can't deal with climate without dealing with biodiversity, or with air pollution without dealing with the oceans.  Nature forms a system, in which everything is interconnected: the various elements of our biosphere are interdependent. Yet there is currently no global treaty enshrining the major cross-cutting legal principles governing the environment. An international convention of a general nature could thus constitute a major reference for global environmental governance.

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