Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade
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Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

International Food Governance and Trade in Agriculture

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi

This timely book provides an accessible insight into how the concept of sustainable development can be made operational through its translation into legal terms. Understood as a multidimensional legal principle, sustainable development facilitates coherent international law making. Using this notion as an analytical lens on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the book considers the unresolved question of what a sustainable and coherent agricultural trade agreement could look like.
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Chapter 3: International sustainable development law: A new branch of law

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi


The Brundtland Report has already pointed to the need to elaborate on ‘international law for sustainable development’, while attributing a set of legal principles to the concept. The 1992 Rio Declaration established a set of 27 legal principles for sustainable development. In particular, principle 27 claimed that ‘states and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership … in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development’. Chapter 39 of Agenda 21 further emphasized the need to clarify and strengthen the relationship between existing international instruments. As a consequence, a new branch of law has evolved: international sustainable development law, which Cordonier Segger describes as a growing body of ‘international law in the field of sustainable development’ or ‘sustainable development law’. According to her, the term ‘sustainable development law’ does not just express a change in semantics. It is a conceptual shift, one that facilitates and may even require, through new procedural and substantive obligations in different contexts, a balance between three intersecting systems of international law. However, to what extent has sustainable development been incorporated into international law? This not only depends on its adoption into treaty law, but also on its application in international jurisprudence and its reception by legal scholars. Since the Brundtland Report, sustainable development has received considerable acceptance into international law. Many international treaties have adopted the term ‘sustainable development’, with the UNFCCC as one of the prime legal instruments. The respective references range from a mention of sustainable

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