An Environment Destroyed and International Law

» by Mary Nazzal-Batayneh

Apart from rare references to Nauruan obesity, bankruptcy, or phosphate, the tiny Pacific island of Nauru is unfamiliar to most. However, a historically sensitive inspection of the island reveals that Nauru's story possesses great meaning. Nauru clearly represents the myriad and interrelated environmental issues facing the Earth today and in particular those facing post-colonial states. The experience of Nauru provides a parable within which we can see the demise of the symbiotic relationship once held between humans and their natural surroundings. An analysis is warranted that unravels the threads that make Nauru a microcosm of the conflict between environmental sustainability and the expanding commercial economy. Thus along these lines, this essay will begin with a historical sketch of Nauruan history followed by an examination of the islanders' legal case at the International Court of Justice. A speculative analysis will then be presented on which post-Stockholm principles of international environmental law may have been relevant if the court had adjudicated the case. Lastly, it will be contended that the Nauruan experience reinforces the significance of certain environmental principles that emerged out of Rio, such as sustainable development. It will become increasingly clear that the Nauruan experience serves to underlie the importance of international environmental law as an evolving framework of normative principles particularly considering both the current degeneration of the Earth and the all-consuming nature of today's market economy

© Mary Nazzal-Batayneh 2005.

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