Friday, December 25, 2009

Call for Papers: Fairness in International Environmental Law

The Interest Group on International Environmental Law of the European Society of International Law has issued a call for papers for its first workshop, to be held during the Society's Fourth Biennial Conference, September 2-4, 2010, in Cambridge. The topic is "Fairness in International Environmental Law." Here's the call:

The Interest Group on International Environmental Law is pleased to announce that its first workshop will take place during the Fourth Biennial Conference of the European Society of International Law in Cambridge (2-4 September 2010). The IGIEnvL convenors hereby invite the submission of abstracts on the theme of « Fairness in International Environmental Law ».

1. Theme Statement: Fairness in International Environmental Law

International Environmental Law (IEL) has always been a contested project. Ever since its emergence as an autonomous body of law, and perhaps more than any other branch of international law, IEL has had to face charges that it is a political move intended to ‘fix’ the mistakes of industrialized nations at the expense of developing countries. Today, the difficult road to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit provides a very visible and vivid reminder of the conflicting attitudes of the North and the South towards international environmental regimes. Although interdependence creates the incentive to cooperate, IEL continues to be riddled by controversies over the fair distribution of costs, resources, risks and responsibilities.

However, whilst IEL has long acknowledged the reality of these competing claims, fairness tends to remain a somewhat secondary concern, overtaken by what often seems to be more pressing issues of effectiveness and enforcement. The accepted disciplinary wisdom seems to be that IEL has reached a certain degree of normative maturity, and that what is now required is more obedience and better compliance. In other words, whilst IEL continues to be criticized for its ‘softness’, there is little suggestion that the normative blueprint itself needs rethinking and reforming. The objective of this workshop is to explore the role of fairness – actual or potential – in the evolution and development of IEL, and to consider ways in which existing norms, processes and institutions can be revisited to address issues of fairness on the global stage.

2. Structure of the Workshop

The theme of fairness will be explored in the context of two complementary panels, followed by a keynote address by an invited speaker.

Panel 1: Theory, Practice and Discourse of Fairness in International Environmental Law

Fairness – like related notions of equity, legitimacy and justice – is ambivalent and can mean all things to all people. The first panel will seek to disentangle and explore the various theoretical dimensions of fairness, as well as some concrete manifestations of fairness in existing international regimes. Papers are invited to address these issues along the following lines of inquiry:

Defining the Fairness Imperative

Why does fairness matter? What does it mean as a philosophical concept? Is it any different from equity, legitimacy or justice? Is fairness better understood as a principle of retributive justice (fairness as redress for the wrongs of the past) or as a principle of distributive justice (fairness as a need-based or capacity-based burden sharing principle)? Are there non-distributional ways of thinking about fairness? How does fairness relate to notions of compliance and effectiveness? Are proto-concepts like ‘sustainable development’ or ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ useful tools for understanding and addressing problems of fairness?

Faces and Spaces of Fairness

What are the different ways – substantive, procedural or otherwise – in which an environmental regime can be made to be fair? How can the fairness of environmental decision-making be improved? What does fairness mean in relation to the concrete implementation of environmental norms? The traditional focus is on the fairness of multilateral environmental regimes, but what can be done to achieve greater fairness in relation to unilateral environmental measures? Other than through differential treatment, how does/should international law recognize and accommodate the special needs and interests of developing countries? What are some of the proposals put forward by governments, civil society or other actors in this regard? How can they be implemented in practice?

Narratives of Fairness

How, historically, have problems of fairness been framed by developing countries? What strategies – narrative, normative, institutional or otherwise – has the Third World used to oppose and/or transform the (Western) environmental agenda? Is there such a thing as a ‘Third World Approach’ tofairness in IEL? Can IEL be an instrument of distributive justice when it continues to be built around legal categories (state, consent, sovereignty, territory etc.) which have historically been used to justify subordination of the Third World by the West? Rather that conceptualizing fairness in relation to States (developed v. developing), should we ask what international law can do to protect – or more importantly perhaps – to empower vulnerable communities? Is there a danger in antagonizing ‘the West v. the Rest’ when urgent measures are required to address environmental crises?

Panel 2: Making Fairness a Reality in the International Regime on Climate Change

The second Panel will serve to illustrate the theoretical issues raised in PANEL 1 and update the debate on the role of fairness in IEL in the specific context of the climate change regime. In particular, we invite papers to study the configuration and outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held at Copenhagen (December 2009) around the following lines of thinking:

Competition of Objectives: Fairness vs. Effectiveness in the International Regime on Climate Change

Are the two notions of fairness and effectiveness mutually exclusive? Is it suitable to advocate in favour of a value such as the notion of fairness in an inherently heterogenic society as the international community? When put into practice, is there a danger that ‘soft’ considerations of fairness might lose out against the ‘hard’ reality of economics and efficiency? To what extend does the choice of making efficient market instruments at the heart of climate change negotiations support industrialised nations’ perspective? Can market-based international climate change policies integrate developing countries’ concerns?

Fairness in the Allocation of Climate Change Burdens (Mitigation Strategies)

Does the carbon market provide for a fair distribution of the burdens of climate change mitigation strategies? To what extend does the distribution of emissions rights reflect the perspective of nonAnnex I countries? Would the imposition of binding obligations on developing countries make the climate change regime fairer or will it lead to a more unbalanced regime? How might developing countries participate in it (e.g. reformed CDM, voluntary or regulatory REDD financial mechanism, nationally appropriate measures, etc.)?

Fairness in the Distribution of Climate Change Effects (Adaptation Mechanisms)

Taking into account that the impact of climate change across nations is independent of their emissions profile, are the existing mechanisms of adaptation, financing and transfer of technologies sufficient to handle the special vulnerability of developing countries? Do these tools help bring about intragenerational equity? What are the main challenges ahead? How should we strike the balance between the needs of the present generations and those of future generations in the context of adaptation? Does the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities adequately reflect developed countries’ historical responsibility for the problem (intergenerational equity)?

3. Application Process

Papers presented at the workshop will be selected through a competitive process. The selection process will be based exclusively on scholarly merit and priority will be given to unpublished papers and work in progress. We welcome proposals from professionals, academics and graduate students, and remain open to proposals which may challenge the importance given by this workshop to the notion of fairness as a central issue in the future development of IEL.
Each submission should include the following:

  • An abstract of no more than 700 words in English or French, specifying the panel for which it is intended.
  • A short CV in English or French.

Applications should be submitted to both and, in WORD (version 1999-2007) or PDF format. Please write “Proposals 2010 Cambridge Workshop” in the subject of the email.

4. Deadline

The deadline for submission of proposals is Monday, 8 February 2010. The outcome of the selection process will be notified to all applicants by Monday, 1 March 2010. After selection, each presenter will be expected to produce a draft paper by Monday, 12 July 2010 for circulation among the other workshop participants.

5. Publication

Publishers have already expressed an interest in publishing the proceedings of the workshop in an edited volume. The organisation reserves itself the right to publish the selected papers. Before publication, all papers will be submitted to peer-review.

6. Inquiries

For all inquiries, please contact Mario Prost at or Alejandra Torres Camprubi at