Global Governance of the Environment
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Global Governance of the Environment

Environmental Principles and Change in International Law and Politics

Afshin Akhtarkhavari

This timely book examines the role of environmental principles in changing international environmental law and politics, and argues for the importance of integrating environmental principles in the global governance of the environment.
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Chapter 3: Environmental Principles as Abstract or Open-textured Norms

Afshin Akhtarkhavari


INTRODUCTION In international law and politics, principles are often defined by their source, in terms of how they function, or whether they are linguistically structured in a different way from other norms like rules or standards. For instance, the Statute of the International Court of Justice was drafted by creating a conceptual category known as ‘general principles of law’ which, when recognised as such by civilised nations around the world, would also be a source of international law.1 The concept of a principle is also commonly used to refer to certain particular types of norms that are recognised in customary international law or are drafted into international agreements and resolutions of international organisations and institutions.2 Where a principle comes from, however, does not say much about what it is and if it is capable of doing anything in terms of changing how actors at the international level commonly and collectively develop interests in relation to something. In the context of international law and politics the term ‘principle’ is used in many different ways, but many approaches to describing principles rely on how they are functionally or structurally different from rules.3 This 1 See Statute of the International Court of Justice, Art 38(1)(c). On general principles of law as a source of international law see, for instance, Olufemi Elias and Chin Lim, ‘“General Principles of Law”, “Soft Law” and the Identification of International Law” (1997) 28 Netherlands Year Book of International Law 3; Christopher Ford, ‘Judicial Discretion in International...

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