CYIL vol. 11 (2020)

SILVANO DENEGA SOUZA CYIL 11 (2020) Environmental concerns at the institutional level, moreover, may be considered late. The Charter of the United Nations (1945) contains no express reference to environmental protection among those basic principles that were, at the beginning, considered primordial by the newly formed organization. To have an idea of the secondary importance of the subject in the world order, the creation of a body dedicated to environmental issues at the United Nations happened only in the 1970’s, with the establishment of the UnitedNations Environmental Program (UNEP) 25 by the General Assembly. Since then, the program has been of special relevance, functioning as a forum for discussions and studies on the environment and its inter-relations with states, besides serving as a body under which many multilateral agreements received their now acquainted wording. The upward curve of environmental concerns gets clearer from late 1960’S and early 1970’s, a period when the subject is found more inserted in international agreements. Up to that moment, international agreements had consent decrees and provisions on the conservation of fish and whale stocks 26 but served no ecocentric purposes. The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946) is an example. Nico Schrijver observes that ‘the primary concern of that treaty was initially mainly of an economic nature, namely, to prevent over-fishing in order to maximize the catch.’ 27 In early 1970’s the second phase of development of international environmental law began, 28 but it may be regarded as the first great moment for a more radical paradigm shift in the environmental field. The second moment would only take place twenty years later. These two extremely relevant events for the conceptual development of environmental protection, with direct effects on international environmental law, were the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992). Philippe Sands has thus summarized the effects of the Stockholm Declaration: The Stockholm Conference set the scene for international activities at the regional and global level and influenced legal and institutional developments up to and beyond UNCED. Developments in this period are of two types: those directly related to Stockholm and follow-up actions; and those indirectly related thereto. The period was marked by a proliferation of international environmental organizations (including those established by treaty) and greater efforts by existing institutions to address environmental issues. 29 Hurrel and Benedict Kingsbury (eds.) The International Politics of the Environment (Oxford University Press 1992) 83. 25 The first proposal for its establishment was in 1974, through a project presented by Spain as part of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean. 26 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas (adopted 19 April 1958, entered into force 20 March 1966) 559 UNTS 285. 27 SCHRIJVER, Nico, The Evolution of Sustainable Development in International Law: Inception, Meaning and Status (Brill 2008) 103. 28 The first phase was marked by the emergence of principles of international environmental law in two noted international arbitrations. First, the arbitration regarding the fur seals of the Pacific, involving the United States and the United Kingdom, proceedings initiated with the aim of ceasing the excessive exploitation of these animals in the Bering Sea (Alaska); second is the famous Trail Smelter case, the United States contending with Canada over transboundary pollution. 29 SANDS, Philippe, Principles of International Law (Cambridge University Press 2011) 40.


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