The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Chapter 11: International environmental governance in the Pacific island region
Upon achieving independence in the second half of the twentieth century the national governments of the Pacific island region commenced participating actively in the processes and institutions of international environmental law. Pacific island countries (PICs) can be seen to have ‘taken to heart the keynote concepts of the magnificent declarations in the preamble of the UN Charter, including the reaffirmation of the equal rights of nations large and small, and respect for international law’. Cooperation among the states of the region for the purpose of engaging with international environmental legal processes is also common, in large part because ‘[f]or the small, there is always safety and strength in numbers’. The outcomes of Pacific engagement in international environmental governance are mixed. On one hand there is clearly a need to join the international community in developing and implementing multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) of relevance to the region. Pacific environments and societies have undoubtedly benefited from various protections and entitlements enshrined in international legal regimes. Perhaps ironically, during the past two decades the institutional and financing activities surrounding global conventions can be seen to have rendered irrelevant existing Pacific regional environmental treaty law and smothered its further development. Key stakeholders have recently begun voicing concerns identifying a substantial disconnect between international environmental governance and national and sub-national planning and priority-setting in PICs.
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