The OSPAR Arbitration of the MOX Plant Dispute
THE OSPAR ARBITRATION (IRELAND v. UNITED KINGDOM) AWARD OF 2003, Belinda MacMahon, ed., Asser Institute, 2008
21 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2008 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009
The MOX litigation, concerning radioactive pollution from a manufacturing plant along the Irish Sea, has been a poster child for the emerging issue of fragmentation in international law. It has involved proceedings in four different forums: an arbitral tribunal convened pursuant to the OSPAR Convention (dealing with pollution of the Northeast Atlantic), an arbitral panel established under Annex VII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This paper is the introduction for a forthcoming volume focusing on the OSPAR piece of the MOX puzzle. The OSPAR arbitral award is notable not only for its specific conclusions regarding the nature and scope of the right of access to information, but for its more general discussion of the relationship of the OSPAR regime to other legal rules on access to information, including European Community directives and the 1998 Aarhus Convention. The majority's legalistic approach - its focus on the treaty text rather than on broader policy considerations - has engendered considerable controversy, but should not be surprising. Ireland chose to invoke a legalized method of dispute resolution to address a comparatively narrow legal issue in the MOX dispute, concerning access to information. In a field where non-legal modes of dispute resolution are on the rise, and where the lines between hard and soft law are often blurry, the tribunal's punctilious approach to the distinction between law and policy reflected its view of its proper role as a legal institution.
Keywords: international law, environment, dispute settlement, arbitration
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation