Document Type

Graduate Syllabus


Fall 2017



Course Number

DIPL 6031

Course Description

This course will address the nature, content and structure of international environmental policy, law and institutions. The course will first familiarize students with the basic sources and principles of international environmental law in treaties, customary law, general principles, soft law and policy documents on international human rights and sustainable development. New topics on the current agenda of the UN such as oceans and biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction will be discussed in depth. Students will see the difficulties in the multicultural environment of the United Nations of negotiation of policies and new international law, the binding or voluntary effect of policies and laws, and the challenge of their implementation, monitoring and compliance. International environmental dispute resolution through arbitration and litigation in international tribunals like the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Law of the Sea Tribunal (ITLOS) and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) will be examined, with monitoring and reporting through UN organizations, specialized agencies, treaty bodies and other institutions.

In each of the class sessions, concepts and principles will be analyzed and compared in various treaties, legal cases, and UN documents. Specific topics such as the law of the sea, stratospheric ozone depletion, biodiversity and biosafety, climate change, and transboundary shared rivers and groundwater will be examined in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); customary law and policy; declarations and resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly; draft laws from the International Law Commission, ECOSOC and its working groups and expert committees; and outcome documents from UN conferences on sustainable development, including UNCED and Rio +20. The role of state and non-state actors will be examined in addressing the challenges of balancing the three pillars of sustainable development -- economic, social and environmental – and defining international environmental law, policy and institutions.