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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM

International Legal Protection of the Environment

Author: Dinusha Samanmali Rajapaksha

Every corner of the world is talking about the planet, save the planet, and environmental issues because we have a single mission to protect our Brake distributor for the future generation. We have a responsibility to protect Mother Nature to be a better place. Because of so many reasons people can find the implementation to protect the environment internationally. Now they introduced the international legal protection of the environment. Nowadays the importance of the global and local environment has increased rapidly in many parts of the world. As a result of that rapid change, multilateral environmental agreements (MEA) deal with the environmental issues at the international level.

International legal protections on the environment have focused their attention on the land, water resources, marine environment, ozone layer, climate changes hazard management system, chemical management, biodiversity conventions, sustainability, and all topics related to the environment. Human interpretation with technology development is badly linked with the environment and it causes so many environmental issues. This is a significant turn that has given birth to the new laws and to regulate both changing environment relationships and resulting disputes as well as the birth of multilateral treaties to invest in the environment for the future.

Development and functions of multilateral agreements.

International environmental law is one of the main branches of international law, developed in the mid 20th century as far as the conservation movements rapidly developed in the 19th Century among many nations. Furthermore, by the late 1960s, the whole international community realized the importance of international environmental law is divided into mainly three segments; customary international law; international treaties, and judicial decisions of international courts. Customary international law is referring to the tacit laws that are derived from the inclusive customs and traditions among the contradictory nations.

Under the international treaties, lots of international environmental-related protocols were reshaped and paid attention to the demolition of the ecosystem universally. In 1963 all the nations took steps to protect the endangered species under the World Conservation Union (INCN) and non-governmental organization (NGO). Presently there are 172 participants for the protocol. The United Nations (UN) has promoted multilingual international environmental law. Biodiversity, ozone layer depletion, climate changes, desertification, water resources, quality of land, air, and water, marine resources, chemical management, and waste management categorize under the international environmental law. Multilateral environmental conventions are the combinations of the lots of environment-related protocols together to achieve the aims of sustainable development.

The most significant moment of the multilateral environment laws was developed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992 also known as the earth summit or Rio conference. From here the conference acknowledged the interaction between society and the ecosystems’ problems and understood the relationship between development and the environment. Rio conference June 1992 is referred to the amalgamation of the first-generation convention for the prevention and the effective use of natural resources, second-generation conventions for the main perspectives that focus on sustainable development, and the UN convention of the combat desertification, which included the plans and promotions to reduce the effect of drought for the earth.

The first generation convention period has taken from 19712 1992; In 1971 Ramsar convention developed by the UNESCO, in 1972 to 1973, MARPO cities, in 1982 UNCLOS, 1985 Vienna Convention, in 1987 Montreal protocol, in 1989 Basel convention and in June 1992 Rio conference UNESCO and CDB enhanced. Second generation convention that Centre to the point of the sustainable development was expanded from 1994 to 2015; in 1994 UNCCD, IN 1997 Kyoto Protocol, in 1998 Rotterdam convention, in 2000 Cartagena protocol, Minamata Convention in 2013, and Paris agreement in 2015 played major roles in the second generation conventional that supplied the best for the multilateral environment and laws.

Sustainable Development.

New sustainable development agenda States a set of goals that emphasizes as a sustainable development goal (SDGs) by 17 goals to achieve in the next 15 years; to end poverty, to end starvation, to promote good health, to spread quality education, to enhance the gender equality, to give clean water for all, to practice to use reusable energy, to get a good job with a demanded salary, for the publicize the innovation and infrastructure for all, to reduce inequalities, to spread sustainable cities with sustainable communities, and to establish responsible consumption, to find reason and solution for climate change, To secure the life below water, to secure the life on land and spread the peace and justice And to create partnerships to achieve the goals.

How to form a multilateral environment convention?

There are few steps to form a multilateral environment the convention to become a party. These steps are founded by the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties of 1969: adaptation, signature, rectification, and entry into force. Adaptation is the final text formulated by the participants. In the process of ratification, the country becomes a party to the agreement. It is happening in internal and external processes. Entry into force refers to the number of parties that accept the Treaty in a specific period

Key Elements of multilateral agreements.

The majority of multilateral agreements are composed of the four main key elements: content, commitment, institution, and compliance. The context should include preamble context, definition, objective, principal provisions of the protocol. Commitments focus their attention on financial support, technological assistance, education and training, research and monitoring, and substantive commitments. The multilateral agreement should include the parties that participate in the conference or and the other bodies. Compliance is discussed about the communication that happens.

Basic principles of international environmental law.

Basic principles that are included in the international environmental law are the framework for negotiation and implementation, the basis for interpretation and dispute settlements, guidance for the development of national law, and the overreaching framework for different MEAS.

Common Mechanisms that are used in multilateral environmental agreements.

The mechanism of the multilateral environment agreements has to procedures; prohibitions and the approval procedure. There are implementations and enforcement to ensure compliance and Protocol at a national level.

Multilateral Environment agreements.

Different multilateral environmental agreements focus their attention on the different protocols; biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. Cartagena protocol on biodiversity 2000, Nagoya protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits 2010, Convention on international trade and endangered species of wild fauna and flora 1973, on wetlands international importance is especially waterfowl habitat in 1971, Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and National Heritage 1972. As well as some protocols related to land management; biodiversity convention, Paris Agreement.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and desertification, particularly in Africa 1994, Convention on the Law of the non-navigational uses of international water sources 1997, United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea 1982, International Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships; 1973/78, Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer 1985, Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer 1987, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change 1992, Kyoto protocol 1997, Paris agreement 2015, Basel convention on the control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal 1989, Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international Trade 1998, Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants 2001 and Minamata Convention on Mercury 2013.

Every convention includes such an important concept to heal the earth again but the problem is; awareness of these protocols, treaties, and approaches among the people and how many people are constraint by the rules and regulations to achieve their desires without thinking about the future.


  • James Harrison, Exceptions in Multilateral Environmental Agreements, Exceptions in International Law 328–346 (2020).

  • Public International Law: International Environmental Law, Library Guides, (last visited Apr 16, 2021).

  • ElectronicResourceGuide - ASIL, (last visited Apr 16, 2021).

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