ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Since the 1970s, environmental and sustainable development issues have constituted a significant component of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization's (AALCO) work program. The proposal to examine the development of international law relating to the human environment was introduced by the Government of India during the Fifteenth Annual Session in 1974 in Tokyo.
Over time, discussions have evolved and been organized under various headings, including Environmental Law, Environment Protection, Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, Preparation for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: Follow-up, and Environment and Sustainable Development (2003 onwards). The course of these deliberations has been guided by relevant contemporary developments.
A notable achievement in this context was the adoption of the Statement of General Principles of International Law at the Thirty-First Annual Session held in 1992 in Islamabad, Pakistan. This statement acknowledged the environment as a common concern for humanity and highlighted the intrinsic and inextricable link between the environment and development. To address environmental concerns, it advocated for the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and stipulated that the application and enforcement of environmental standards by developing countries should be in accordance with their respective capabilities and responsibilities.
Following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, AALCO initially promoted the ratification of the three Rio Conventions, namely, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992 (UNFCCC); Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 (CBD); and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, 1994 (UNCCD). After the entry into force of these conventions, AALCO's deliberations shifted to focus on relevant legal developments within the Conference of the Parties of these international regimes, as well as considering the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).
The subject has also been addressed in at least three special meetings, including discussions on “Effective Means of Implementation, Enforcement, and Dispute Settlement” (Accra, Thirty-Eighth Annual Session, 1999), “Environment and Sustainable Development” (Nairobi, Forty-Fourth Annual Session, 2005), and “Environment and Sustainable Development” (Dar es Salaam, Forty-Ninth Annual Session, 2010). At the Dar es Salaam meeting, AALCO entered into a cooperation agreement with the International Council of Environmental Law (ICEL) to facilitate collaboration on endeavors relating to environment and sustainable development.
The topic was discussed at subsequent Annual Sessions from the Fiftieth in 2011 (Colombo) to the Fifty-Fourth in 2015 (Beijing). The Beijing Session emphasized that developing countries are likely to experience some of the most severe effects of climate change, with vulnerable populations and limited potential for development.
During the Sixtieth Annual Session held in 2022, the deliberated topics included (a) Transboundary Air Pollution with Specific Reference to Sand and Dust Storms (SDS) and Haze Pollution, and (b) Conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).