New Challenges for Poverty Reduction
Edited by M. A. Mohamed Salih
Chapter 4: After Us, the Deluge? The Position of Future Generations of Humankind in International Environmental Law
4. After us, the deluge? The position of future generations of humankind in international environmental law Nico Schrijver1 In response to Hans Opschoor’s concerns about the future (Opschoor 1990), this chapter examines the particular contribution of international law and the extent to which contemporary public international law reflects the long term interests of humankind, with particular reference to international environmental law. After a short sketch of the environment and scarcity problem, the next section examines the position of future generations in international law and weighs the pros and cons of regarding humankind as a subject of international law. This is followed by a discussion of several experimental laboratories for the rights of future generations with special attention to the principle of the common heritage of humankind. Subsequently, the chapter examines three further principles that are central to the discussion on the rights of future generations: intergenerational equity, precaution and sustainable development. Then an argument for a clearer exposition of the concept of sustainability in the international community and for agreement on concrete principles and rules of international law that would make this possible is presented. This would require better institutional structures, a subject discussed in the section, ‘International architecture for the management of the earth’. The last section summarizes the rights of future generations before drawing a conclusion. The world media report almost daily on environmental damage, poverty, famine and conflicts over access to natural resources. The past few years have recorded not only a devastating tsunami in the Indian...
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