Sustainable Development, State Sovereignty and International Justice
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: ON THE AIMS OF DEVELOPMENT AND CONDITIONS OF SUSTAINABILITY, pp. 70-83, W. Lafferty, Oluf Langhelle, eds., Houndsmills: MacMillan, 2011
17 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 20, 2011
The right to development gained broad attention in the mid 1980s: The UN recognized a human right to development in 1986 , and the World Commission on Environment and Development presented its conclusions regarding sustainable development in 1987. The Commission, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, declared that sustainable development is an overriding requirement for national and supranational institutions. We must promote “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“ (WCED 1987:43). The Commission goes on to address conflicts between the claims of today’s poor and tomorrow’s environment. To be sure, the environment often improves by eradicating poverty: “Poverty reduces people’s capacity to use resources in a sustainable manner; it intensifies pressure on the environment“ (WCED 1987:49). But sometimes these goals appear to conflict, and people have different views: Citizens in richer countries give priority to conserving the environment rather than to promote economic development in other states. On the other hand, governments of China, Brazil and India and many developing countries claim that they must give priority to their economic development, above environmental considerations. The Commission holds that in conflicts between the basic needs of the world’s poor and environmental concerns, basic needs should be given first priority. Another area of conflict arise between environment, development and traditional conceptions of sovereignty. In exchange for accepting the Montreal Protocol’s requirement for removing ozone-damaging substances, developing countries have demanded economic support from other countries. Such claims may merely be requests for side payments in the bargain, but they may perhaps also be well founded claims within a more just world order: that there are international obligations of aid to alleviate conflicts between human rights and development.The present paper seeks to elaborate and justify these claims of priority of basic needs over environment and sovereignty. This thesis, the Primacy of Human Rights, holds that development strategies should secure the basic needs for today’s poor through respecting human rights - if necessary at the expense of protecting the environment. Moreover, such development strategies may require international aid with ties, contrary to traditional conceptions of state sovereignty.
Keywords: human rights, sustainable development, state sovereignty, international justice
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation