Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Michael Bowman, Peter Davies and Edward Goodwin
Chapter 16: ‘Only connect’? Regime interaction and global biodiversity conservation
Since the watershed UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 called upon humankind to recognise its ‘special responsibility to safeguard and wisely manage the heritage of wildlife and its habitat’, there has been a steady proliferation of treaties and management bodies responsible for the protection of biological diversity. While this institutional bounty represents an admirable alignment of political will towards the protection of threatened species and ecosystems, significant concerns have nonetheless remained over the practical cohesion and coherence of these regimes, with the problem of so-called ‘treaty congestion’ considered to be especially acute. Treaty congestion essentially connotes the administrative and regulatory inefficiencies created by the inherent nature of international environmental law-making, which often generates multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in an ad hoc and haphazard manner, potentially facilitating conflict, duplication and inefficiency between allied regimes. Accordingly, individual species can find themselves subject to the regulatory attentions of a wide range of disparate treaties, each purporting to advance individual management policies for the population in question. Such a situation presents clear challenges in coordinating and consolidating conservation strategies and priorities at both an international level and, more importantly, for contracting parties seeking to implement these commitments on the ground. The development of policies to address these problems has therefore constituted a significant – yet often unheralded – concern for many such treaties.
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