Colloquium 2016

PluriCourts, Center of Excellence for the Study of the Legitimacy of International Courts and Tribunals at the University of Oslo, will host the 14th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law. This event will be held in Oslo, the capital of Norway, 20-24 June, 2016.

The aim

The aim of the conference is to gather academics working with environmental issues, especially legal practitioners, as well as judges, adjudicators, arbitrators, mediators and members of tribunals that deal with environmental matters, and civil society, to discuss procedural and substantive aspects of environmental adjudication.

The Academy will publish an edited and peer-reviewed collection of selected papers following the colloquium.

The topic

The topic for the 2016 Colloquium is “The Environment in Court – Environment protection in national and international courts, tribunals, and compliance mechanisms”. This broad topic seeks to address procedural and substantive aspects of environmental adjudication, both in national, regional and international courts, tribunals as well as non-compliance mechanisms of multilateral environmental treaties. In the context of the Sustainable Developments Goals, Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration as well as the Aarhus Convention, the idea of strengthening of an environmental rule of law through access to justice has gathered considerable momentum.

The main questions to explore by this colloquium relate to what the role is, should be and could be for the judiciary in promoting environmentally sustainable development? What progresses and advances have been made in protecting the environment through courts and which obstacles exist to enhancing effective environmental adjudication? The colloquium attempts to address these issues along various, crossing “axes”: national and international adjudication, procedural and substantive legal issues, comparisons of different legal systems, and the relationships between policy and law, input and outcome, lex lata and lex ferenda, law and ethics, effectiveness and equity.

In national legal systems, environmental claims are in general either heard by general administrative courts or addressed by private or criminal litigation or, where they exist, specialized environmental courts.

On the international sphere, there are currently no courts with special jurisdiction in environmental law. Nevertheless, environmental issues are being addressed by existing international courts and tribunals with either general competence or specialized competences in other fields of international law, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), regional Human Rights Courts, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Court of Justice of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Dispute Settlement Mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and investment arbitral tribunals. With few exceptions, environmental law often remains outside the legal mandate of these “non-environmental” courts.

International court of justice in Hague, Netherlands

International court of justice in Hague, Netherlands. Image: Colourbox.com

In addition to these judicial and quasi-judicial organs, there are a number of non-judicial bodies, promoting states’ compliance with environmental treaty obligations. An example is provided by the so-called non-compliance mechanisms, established under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). These bodies raise interesting questions as to their effectiveness and legitimacy.

This Colloquium takes litigation of environmental disputes (and disputes with environmental aspects) before courts as a starting point for discussions. Its ultimate goal is to deliberate the effectiveness and legitimacy of existing national and international adjudication procedures as well as to discuss further feasible and effective avenues for dealing with environmental disputes. Critical questions will be asked about how courts (and judges/arbitrators) work when confronted with the complexities and, sometimes, uncertainties characterising environmental disputes.

Call for abstracts

Abstracts were invited to seven subject clusters connected to the colloquium topic, read more here. Call for abstracts is now closed.