The Contribution of Law to the RIO + 20 AGENDA



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Remarks by Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona   Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka   to the United Nations .   

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,It gives me great pleasure to chair this workshop on the contributions of international treaties and of tribunals to sustainable development governance.  As the Rio+20 Conference draws closer we would all naturally look to the legal framework that would guide us post Rio+20 .  At the end of the day it will not be fine words and deleted brackets that will determine implementation of commitments undertaken at Rio, but the frameworks that we agree upon.   20 years ago at Rio, a similar process took place. The Rio principles were adopted. Many believe that a substantial part of them have now become part of customary international law. The Agenda 21 was adopted and continues to guide our actions.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity were opened for signature and both instruments are now in force. Both instruments also have protocols attached to them.  In addition to these high profile instruments, the international community has over the years adopted a range of other treaties which regulate our actions on various matters affecting the environment.  These cover the ozone layer, climate change, biological diversity, desertification, the seas, hazardous wastes, chemicals, fauna and flora, trade in endangered species, fisheries - the list is extensive.  Many of these treaties were negotiated under the auspices of the UN or at conferences mandated by the General Assembly.  The UN has played a vital role in expanding the global regulatory framework relating to human actions that affect the environment and, of course, sustainable development.  Indeed we have to be thankful to the UN for this. We are now entering an era of green development. In this context, the role played by international tribunals in advancing international rules of conduct is significant.  Going far back as the Trail Smelter Case, international tribunals have contributed to the development of rules relating to the responsibility of states, including for environmental issues.  Moe recently we have the judgments in the Nuclear Weapons Case and the Paper Mills Case. We have decisions of the International Court of Justice, the Law of the Sea Tribunal and arbitral awards which have played a critical role in advancing the law relating to environmental protection.  As you may be aware, a large number of Permanent Representatives who call themselves the ARCC, Ambassadors for Responsibility in the case of Climate Change, are developing a draft GA Resolution seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the responsibility of states to mitigate human generated GHG emissions in view of the likely consequences of climate change and global warming. I look forward to the Panelists elaborating on some of these aspects this afternoon.   I shall now hand over the floor to our moderator, Ms. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Head of Economic Growth &Trade, IDLO   

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