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I. Conceptual paradigm
Several new concepts have already been introduced by politicians and by scholars: including primacy of international law, common interest, intergenerational equity, common heritage of mankind, common European home, redefined security, and ecological (environmental) security. These are in addition to certain fundamental changes of methodological character that have manifested in recent years. The international legal regulation of environmental protection has been shifting more and more from a traditional "media control approach" (rivers, marine environment, air, and wildlife) to a "problem control approach" (population, desertification, hazardous wastes, and global warming).
The concepts recently introduced are all based on the assumption that the overwhelming importance of protection of the natural environment requires awareness of its global, all-human, long-term dimensions. This means that these conceptions would be complimentary rather than competitive. When thoroughly and evenly elaborated, they could create a new legal regime for truly efficient environmental protection.
The primacy of international law presupposes the supremacy of law over force in international relations. Primacy of international law requires recognizing the supremacy of values common to all mankind over all other values and interests, including giving the highest priority to human survival through the protection of the natural environment.1 When applied to global environmental challenges, this means that these problems cannot be resolved via the power pressure of several states, however influential they may be. However, through voluntary uniform behaviour by all countries or their overwhelming majority through the exposure of common interest by political methods and its realization through a system of appropriate international legal prescriptions, these problems can be resolved.
The existence of a common interest has long since been recognized as the main driving force in the development of international law. It is precisely the need for its legal manifestation that has given birth to a great deal of multilateral international treaties regulating various spheres of cooperation among states on problems being of common interest to them. Comprehending the existence and importance of vital ecological values expands the concept of common interest. Still today we must state that the world community has not yet come to appreciate the problem of global environmental protection as a concentrated expression of common interest.
The urgency and acuteness of the problem are assessed in various ways by industrially developed and developing countries. The latter assess global environmental threats as a problem regarding primarily developed countries, though the recent scenarios of ecological catastrophes show how devastating their affects can be on many developing nations.2
At the same time, there are realistic political possibilities for bringing the positions of various groups of countries closer together through comprehensive evaluation and understanding of environmental challenges and the vital necessity of global consensus based on common ecological interest. The meeting in Moscow on 15 July 1989 between the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may serve as an example of statements regarding such a common interest. Both leaders expressed the conviction that a realistic solution to the problems of worldwide significance can only be found via their internationalization.3
Another example could be the attitude toward ecological problems demonstrated by governmental leaders at the Paris "Big Seven" meeting (July 1989).4 In the declaration on East-West relations adopted by the meeting, one can see favourable prospects for joint pursuits of equitable resolutions in the area of environmental protection. On the other hand, four presidents of top developing countries turned to the "Seven" with a proposal for a North-South meeting, in the near future, on global problems of the economy and the environment.5
The concepts of a "common heritage of mankind" and "intergenerational equity" are interconnected. Both concepts aim to endow common human rights and interests within a legal context. The attempts of scholars and politicians to apply both concepts to the global environment are well known.
The concept of a "common heritage" has been widely represented and discussed at various international conventions, thereby manifesting a different and sometimes conflicting understanding of its substance and content. One may even say that the initial scope of the conception has undergone a certain deformation under the influence of the political interests of various groups of countries. Currently there are a variety of legal, political, and doctrinal definitions of this concept. Today the obvious impossibility of establishing a single legal context of the common heritage of mankind makes it tempting to apply this concept to the most varied spaces, resources, and phenomena.
The "intergenerational equity" concept is one of the most recent and it has been courageously elaborated mainly on the level of academic thinking.6 The noble goal of the conception is to create legitimacy for the ecological rights of future generations, to establish a legal obligation to preserve favourable environmental conditions for future generations, to guarantee them equal access to natural resources and benefits. However, future generations still lack the status of the subject of international law. Some scholars stress the extreme difficulty of achieving an international consensus on the right of intergenerational equity, since countries frequently do not wish to forego immediate benefits for the sake of distant advantages.7 At the same time, the great potential of intergenerational equity for preserving the global environment must be recognized. This concept deserves thorough discussion and further elaboration.
The most recent concept that is appropriate in this context is the concept of common concern of mankind. It is deeply rooted in such concepts as common interest, global commons, and common heritage of mankind; and it is closely linked to the concept of intergenerational rights. Indeed, the significant controversies and conflicting interpretations that have appeared during application of the "common heritage" approach in different areas (e.g. the law of the sea and space law) inspired governments to choose another derivative, i.e. common concern, to serve concerted actions in equitable sharing of burdens in environmental protection, rather than of benefits from exploitation of environmental wealth.
The "common concern" concept has at least two important facets: spatial and temporal. The spatial aspect means that common concern implies cooperation of all states on matters being similarly important to all nations, to the whole international community. The temporal aspect arises from long-term implications of major environmental challenges, which affect the rights and obligations not only of present but also of future generations. Indeed, a complex interaction of natural environmental factors preconditions a prolonged time-lag between the cause and effect of many human activities. For example, a complete revelation of the causal relationship between chloro-fluorocarbon emissions and ozone-layer destruction, or between greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming can take several generations. Both facets of the "common concern" conception can be traced in positive environmental law and various UN General Assembly resolutions and declarations.
One more aspect of the "common concern" is the social dimension. Common concern presumes involvement of all structures and sectors of the society in the process of combating global environmental threats, i.e., legislative, judicial, and governmental bodies together with private business, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups. This relatively new phenomenon has been manifested via green movements, comprehensive environmental policies introduced by governments and even market forces, but it needs to be supported with stronger legal guarantees.
In December 1988, the UN General Assembly in its resolution 43/ 53 explicitly stated that climate change was a common concern of mankind. This was partially a way out of the controversies related to the common heritage of mankind concept, which had initially been introduced by Malta as a basis for this resolution. At the same time, the resolution wisely indicated a new path to achieving a consolidated set of legal obligations to protect global climate. A new formula, though well originated in the past, was enthusiastically welcomed in other international fore. In the report of the 1989 Ottawa Meeting of Legal and Policy Experts, it was attempted to reformulate this concept by defining the atmosphere as a "common resource of vital interest to mankind." Meanwhile the 1989 Noordwijk Declaration expressly stated that "climate change is a common concern of mankind." In December 1989, the UN General Assembly recalled that climate change had been recognized as a common concern of mankind (UNGA resolution 44/207). In August 1990, the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change adopted the IPCC First Assessment Report Overview, which recommended as an urgent international action the elaboration of an international convention on global climate that would serve as a "firm basis for effective co-operation to act on greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to any adverse effects of climate change." The report stressed that "the Convention should recognize climate change as a common concern of mankind." A wider application of such a new notion as "common concern of mankind" by the world community undoubtedly appeals to all international agencies to assist to this growing international consensus, which in the long run might reach an opinio juris on the applicability of the concept to a wide range of global environmental matters.
The concepts described above lack one important quality. They are all based on notions that are understood primarily by professionals in international law and politics. Thus, they are neither intelligible nor appealing to ordinary people whose support and personal involvement are crucial for such a wide-scale task as that of global environmental protection. The notion of "security" is universally understood and has served as a basic ingredient in all periods of human history. The conception of ecological security adds a security dimension to the ecological problem and vice versa, thereby putting global ecology into the range of security issues.
Jessica Mathews of the World Resources Institute stresses the necessity to redefine our classical understanding of security: "Global developments now suggest the need for another analogous, and broader definition of national security which will include resource, environmental and demographic issues."8 One only need add that this assumption is equally valid for international security. Political scientist Grigory Khozin writes that "ecological security is by its content significantly higher than the traditional idea of national security, it speaks to the interests of all humanity and can only be universal, common to all mankind."9
The UNEP Executive Director, Dr. M.K. Tolba, recently identified ecological destruction and inequitable development as a global time bomb threatening our future. He further stressed that "the escalating ecological crisis is destabilizing national security interests, and threatening our planetary life-support systems."10
The introduction of the concept of ecological security has objective prerequisites of an ecological, economic, political, technological, and socio-psychological nature. The latest Worldwatch Institute report, "State of the World 1990." which is ironically subtitled "Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society," gives a number of record figures that reveal the growing ecological instability of the planet.11 Thus, in 1989 the global annual emissions of carbon dioxide reached a record total of 5.7 billion tons.12 The annual addition to world population, which reached a record high in 1989 of 88 million people, is likely to average 96 million during the nineties.13 Subsequently one of the authors of the Report came to the conclusion that environmental security issues now share the stage with more traditional economic and military concerns, inaugurating a new age of environmental diplomacy.14
The Report clearly indicates how critical the ecological situation in the world is: "... If the world is to achieve sustainability, it will need to do so within the next 40 years. If we have not succeeded by then, environmental deterioration and economic decline are likely to be feeding on each other pulling us into a downward spiral of social disintegration."15 This short citation contains two important connotations. Firstly, it stresses the interconnection of environmental, economic, and social phenomena. Secondly, it presupposes that if the world community wishes to cope with global environmental threats in such a short time limit, urgent and radical improvements in the approach to the problem are needed.
Another argument is that dealing with the global environment means dealing with global security. This argument is contained in the Hague Declaration, adopted in March 1989 by the representatives of 24 countries, including 17 heads of government.16 Based on the evaluation of only two global challenges (global warming and ozone depletion), the Declaration nevertheless stressed: "The right to live is the right from which all other rights stem. Guaranteeing this right is the paramount duty of those in charge of all States throughout the world. Today, the very conditions of life on our planet are threatened by the severe attacks to which the earth's atmosphere is subjected."17 It may only be added that there are more ecological threats, which put the future of human civilization at stake: and deforestation, loss of biological diversity, toxic and radioactive pollution are among them.
Having a more modern technological pattern is another threat to ecological security of the planet. The industrial and technological developments are still waste-producing and resource-wasting. They become more and more fraught with accidents that may cause an ecological catastrophe of planetary scale. The Brundtland Commission report stated: `'Emerging technologies offer the promise of higher productivity, increased efficiency, and decreased pollution, but many bring risks of new toxic chemicals and wastes and of major accidents of a type and scale beyond present coping mechanisms."18
Academician Valery Legasov, who tragically died shortly after the Chernobyl accident, warned in one of his last articles that the devastating effect of large industrial accidents was comparable to a military threat. He also indicated that the growing stationary nonaccidental industrial impact on the environment and human health must also be closely monitored. Combining these two factors creates, in his view, a serious threat to security.19 Professor Vid Vukasovic, in 1978, stressed that science and technology possess the potential to endanger the stability of basic rules of international law and international relations. He wrote: "One should not consider that the development of science and technology is by itself progressive for the future development of international relations. It all depends on which way and for which way and for which goals the results of this development are utilized."20
The socio-psychological factors that are pushing the world community towards creating an ecological security regime manifest themselves primarily in the outstanding growth in public awareness in this field. The individual right to have a safe and healthy environment, which could be deduced from a vague formula of Principle One of the
1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment,21 is now considered ripe for exploitation through inclusion in the relevant internationally legally binding documents on human rights.
The environmental NGOs, whose input during the 1972 Stockholm Conference seemed almost insignificant, have developed into strong opponents of national governments and are close to becoming new actors in the international decision-making process. Various NGOs have recently produced a number of documents on an international scale whereby the concept of a human right to a safe and healthy environment and ecological security have melded to become a key element.22 The level of public awareness in the environmental field is clearly manifested by the fact that on 22 April 1990 (Earth Day 1990) more than 100 million people all over the world agreed to come to the streets to express their will to liberate the planet Earth from such enemies as deforestation, carbon dioxide, CGSs, wastes, overpopulation, and pollution.23
Political factors in favour of an ecological security approach are numerous, though their interplay is often contradictory. Today no national government or administration can risk not including an environmental component in its political platform. In two decades the green movements have developed into an influential political power (the "green" faction in the European Parliament is just one example).
It is important that an ecological security approach be discussed today not only by scholars, but also by practicing diplomats. Swedish diplomat Lars Bjorkbom gave an interesting analysis of the weak and strong points of the ecological security concept as applicable to everyday policy-making. With reference to numerous international fore, he pointed out the risks to international security from the ongoing environmental degradation and the non-sustainable use of living natural resources. He stressed that security is a wider concept than that of military security alone, and that the growing imbalance between man and nature threatens the well-being and thus the security of all nations.24
Still, the widened security concept, although it seems to be reasonably clear and relevant to the problems facing mankind, evidently lacks something in quality to make it accepted by experts on international security issues or to function as a basic concept for international crisis management. According to Bjorkbom, better analytical work is needed that would lay bare the crucial links between environmental degradation and social, economic, and political destabilization. It is indispensable that the results of such analytical work be presented in terms familiar to politicians and experts on international security issues.
The interrelatedness of economic and ecological factors in the new concept of security is evident. A degraded environment always offers fewer natural resources for further economic development. The inefficient economies lead to high pollution and rapacious exploitation of natural wealth. In addition ecological security may serve as a tool to solve difficult economic-political problems. The most recent is the problem of reconverting the military sectors of natural economies. This problem promises to promptly become a full-scale task if international disarmament continues. Ecological security offers not only a sphere where huge material and intellectual resources, currently concentrated in the military sector, can be utilized, but by definition would make it easier to shift resources from one security sector to another.
It may be noted that politically, ecological security can be considered in three dimensions. The first derives from the environmental threat to political and economic stability. The second is based on the assumption that the inter-state disputes, arising from transboundary pollution or abuse of one's right to use shared natural resources, may develop into military conflicts. The third originates from the supposition that overreaching ecological imbalances may cause severe disruption of major natural processes that are indispensable to human existence on the planet.
The first two dimensions are primarily of a national and regional scale. The last and the most serious one has global implications. The best available example of the third dimension of ecological security is global climate change.25
The ecological security concept was initially introduced as a political idea within a comprehensive paradigm of international security. The first international document to which one may refer was adopted in May 1987 by the Warsaw Treaty Political Consultative Committee, where the Warsaw Treaty member states declared their decisiveness to strive for the creation of the all-embracing system of international security (ASIS), which would include political, economic, humanitarian, and ecological aspects.26
Later that year, the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discussed the ecological dimension of international security while meeting with the UN Secretary-General.27 And finally, in his article "Reality and Guarantees for a Secure World," published in September 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev stressed the universal character of ecological security.28
At the forty-second session of the UN General Assembly, the former Soviet Union and East European countries attempted to include ecological security into the agenda of urgent matters that the world community faced. A draft resolution called "International Ecological Security" was jointly proposed by the former Ukrainian SSR and Czechoslovakia.29 The draft noted, inter alia, the continuing degradation of the environment and stressed the necessity to study and elaborate on the mutually acceptable conception of international ecological security, and in particular, to define relevant fundamental norms and principles of state behaviour.30 Regrettably, despite the evident viability of the ecological security approach and the compromise character of the resolution (note "mutually acceptable conception"), this document could not obtain sufficient support at the General Assembly. This was clear evidence of how the political conservatism that reigned in a limited sphere of East-West relations could easily overweigh the interests of saving the entire world from ecological catastrophe.
At the forty-third session of the UN General Assembly, the Soviet leaders continued to give special attention to ecological security. Speaking at the session, Mikhail Gorbachev called for defining "the world ecological threat."31 The former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, not only proposed the creation of an "international regime of ecological security" but also offered a programme of its implementation.32 Still, a full-scale discussion of this topic did not occur at the UN General Assembly.
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