Regional Commons: An Assessment of the Impact of the Framework Convention and Kyoto Protocol on the Organization of American States and the Association of South East Asian Nations and Suggestions for the Role of Regionalism in International Environmental Law
Alexandra R. Harrington
McGill University - Faculty of Law
November 11, 2008
University of Baltimore Journal of Environmental Law, Forthcoming
In an age of increasing globalization, it is interesting to note the plethora of regional and subregional groups which exist in international law and society today. These groups exist to further a variety of purposes, from general well-being and cooperation within the designated region to business and trade promotion to military alliances. Within these groups, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are among the most comprehensive in purpose and regional membership. These organizations are also among the oldest and best established regional groups, having been created in 1948 and 1967 respectively. Because of their standing within the regions they attempt to serve, the OAS and ASEAN serve as key policy making and enforcement entities in a variety of areas, including those addressing environmental protection and, as a corollary, sustainable development.
In light of the prominence of these groups and their history of seeking to address the environmental issues which concern and affect their membership, this article examines the environmental policies of the OAS and ASEAN during the time period from pre-UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to the present day. This examination necessarily includes an evaluation of the impact of the Kyoto Protocol on the policies and practices of these groups and also considers the potential impact of the Bali road map on the extant policies maintained by these groups. This article concludes that, while there is an overlap in reference to environmental protection and sustainable development issues, the regional organizations involved have been far more adept at addressing the core issues which face their members - namely, poverty eradication, access to resources, education, and promotion of industries such as tourism, which showcase the already existing natural resources of each country - in ways which are at once more comprehensive than any of the UN documents and yet also more palatable to the concept of sovereignty retained by the member states. This conclusion, the author posits, is the result of the inherent understandings and commonalities associated with regional organizations and their constituent members, as well as the legal similarities in the legal structure and philosophies which underlie the members of the OAS and ASEAN respectively. It is in these similarities and their demonstrated ability to form a consensus regarding sustainable development and environmental issues that the studied regional organizations derive a strength which is uncommon in the global international system. In the author's view, the future of a successful global attempt to combat issues surrounding protecting the environment and sustainability should look to regional organizations as opposed to global organizations for legal and practical solutions because the regional commons are more powerfully understood than the idea of a global good.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 30
JEL Classification: K33
Date posted: November 13, 2008 ; Last revised: November 18, 2008
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