20 Human Security and Global Environmental Governance

Kathryn A. Gwiazdon

Learning Outcomes & Big Ideas

  • Global environmental governance (GEG) is the collection of governmental and non-governmental individuals and institutions that aim to influence individual and collective human behaviour regarding the global environment, including the drafting, implementation and enforcement of local, national and international law and policy
  • GEG is also a broad multi-sectoral approach to environmental protection that advocates for its consideration into other policy concerns (e.g. trade, transportation, agriculture, criminal justice, human security, national security, etc.), through different methodologies and from different places of priority.
  • The general aims of GEG are to protect the foundations of life; to provide food, economy, opportunities, development and security; and to prevent harm, inequity, and suffering.
  • The underlying principles of GEG are democracy, justice and science: democracy in dialogue, diversity, and representation for decision-making; justice in protecting the vulnerable and pursuing accountability for harms; and science in understanding humanity’s utter dependence on, and systematic relations to, the natural environment.
  • GEG has direct and indirect implications for all aspects of human security — economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security — as well as the capabilities that all humans need to survive and flourish.
  • GEG addresses several current global environmental crises that directly and indirectly impact human security, including: climate change and resource scarcity that causes or exacerbates natural disasters or mass migrations of refugees; the illegal trade in wildlife and endangered species — as well as legal and illegal resource extraction — that exacerbates corruption and conflict, including through the funding of arms-sales; legal and illegal land-grabs that take away the lives, livelihoods, and cultures of indigenous populations; the global trade of recyclables and hazardous waste to vulnerable countries, or vulnerable people within those countries; and the mass-scale legal and illegal over-fishing of our oceans, and the harmful practices that are used, that foster human trafficking, endanger traditional fishing practices, and harm regeneration of natural habitats and populations.
  • Some of the challenges to GEG include:
    • the sectoral approach of GEG that places the environment in competition with other sectors
    • narrow interpretations of state sovereignty and state responsibility that prevent or limit accountability for global harms
    • the rise of nationalism and isolationism among states
    • the limits or absence of global institutions to provide guiding principles, regulation and enforceable laws and policy
    • power imbalances among members of global institutions in negotiations and decision-making
    • the sense of anonymity or remoteness of global governance approaches and global issues
    • the absence of justice in GEG
  • The role of GEG in human security can be strengthened by promoting ubuntu, the South African ethical principle of inter-relatedness, interdependence, rooted cosmopolitanism, reconciliation and restorative justice.


This chapter discusses the role of global environmental governance (GEG) in human security. It will provide an overview of the purpose, principles, parties, and process of global environmental governance, as well as the challenges that GEG faces in responding to global crises. It will explain the particular relevance of GEG to human security, the foundations of human stability and security in environmental stability and security, and some current human security issues within the GEG framework. In discussing its challenges, it will also offer suggestions on how to strengthen GEG to better protect human security. The overarching purpose of this chapter is to provide a glimpse into the current nature of GEG and its fundamental role in human security, and to begin to unpack ideas for a more effective approach to addressing our global crises. This chapter builds upon the first edition chapter on this same topic, which focused more on the legal and technical aspects of GEG.

Chapter Overview

20.1 Introduction

20.2 Defining Global Environmental Governance

20.2.1 The Purpose and Principles of Global Environmental Governance

20.2.2 The Parties and Practice of Global Environmental Governance

20.3 Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

20.3.1 Global Environmental Crises and Human Security

20.3.2 Addressing the Challenges to Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

20.3.3 A Way Forward: A Relational Approach to GEG and Human Security

20.4 The Future of Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

Resources and References

Key Points

Extension Activities & Further Research

List of Terms

Suggested Reading


20.1 Introduction

In its most basic sense, global environmental governance (GEG) is an attempt by civil society, governments, and even private entities, to address environmental issues that must be addressed collectively, if we hope to address them at all. For example, with climate change action it is crucial for states — who have regulatory authority over their citizens’ actions — to commit to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, and the absence of any one state in agreements to do so, particularly a state with high GHG emissions, can harm all global efforts. For global governance, where collective action is required for the stability and security of individual persons and the global community, the unwillingness of certain states to engage in global dialogue can cause egregious individual, state, and global harm.

Similar to state governance actors, mechanisms, and institutions, global governance is influenced and implemented by a variety of parties, with a variety of methodologies, and within a variety of institutions. If governance literally means, ‘the action or manner of governing’, a hierarchical structure of formal government institutions is implied. However, with global governance, there is a lack of a central, governing body with an equal representation of members. There is also a lack of a guiding document or constitution with principles to guide behaviour and law, a lack of a regulatory body to ensure and oversee implementation of those rules, and an enforcement body to hold members accountable for any transgressions. Although the United Nations (UN) exists as a global governing body, as explored below, the power of its members is unequal, its resulting documents are often unenforceable, and within all branches of the UN, state’s rights still reign supreme.

For global governance, and thereby GEG, the term governance is interpreted more broadly than local or state governance. Global governance incorporates all individuals and institutions that work together to help guide global behaviour on a particular issue, or local behaviour that has global impacts. The term ‘global’ is indicative of the breadth of its scope, as opposed to the limits of its institutions (i.e. only institutions that have a mission to address global issues). Global governance is informed by and represented in local, national, and regional governance institutions.

Put simply, GEG addresses global environmental issues. However, as it is understood that all life is interconnected, and all humanity is utterly dependent upon the natural environment, so even seemingly local issues are important to consider for their broader impacts. This alone makes the scale and scope of applicable issues difficult to identify. What happens in one state, or even by one industry, can rarely if ever be contained within man-made, legal boundaries. However, GEG attempts to address these global issues — created by bounded states — to prevent global crises, and with mixed results.

Our global environmental crises cannot be separated from our global governance crises, and the sectoral, piece-meal approach of GEG, and even traditional national and international environmental law to date, is not responding with the seriousness and the urgency that our current crises require. And we are witnessing its failure: a rapidly changing climate, the increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, mass biodiversity loss, the acidification and depletion of our oceans, and plastics and pharmaceuticals found in nearly every waterway, and nearly every species, on Earth. The foundations for human community and security, such as combatting poverty, hunger, and inequality, or promoting health, education, and sustainable consumption and production, cannot be separated from clean water, sanitation, and climate change action. As was explained in Chapter 3, Chapter 11 and Chapter 12, our governance systems, created to provide society structure and security, cannot be separated from our environmental foundations.

Our global environmental crises, indeed, all global environmental issues, have direct implications for individual and collective human security. A foundational document to the global dialogue on human security, and the inseparable role of the environment within it, is the 1994 Human Development Report, prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP, 1994). The document opens with guidance “Towards sustainable human development,” followed immediately by a discussion on human security, its components, and its global nature. The seven dimensions of human security that UNDP identified include economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security.

It is important to understand that in the Anthropocene all of the components of human security are inter-related, and each ultimately relies upon our natural environment. Depleted natural resources, conflict over resources, and corruption that stems from resource extraction and competition creates economic insecurity. Depleted oceans, depleted soils, and polluted or scarce freshwater creates food insecurity. Poisoned soils and waters, the increase of diseases and pests due to a warming climate, and the targeting of poor and vulnerable populations for waste and industry creates health insecurity. High consumption of resources, mass biodiversity loss, and the loss of ecological integrity harms the foundations of all life, and our evolutionary processes, which creates environmental insecurity. The militarization of resources (as well as enormous military budgets and levels of pollution stemming from military activities), the conflicts that arise over resources, desertification, the lack of clean food and water, national and international land grabs for development, the increase in severe weather events creates personal insecurity. Resource scarcity harms economic, social, and cultural development and opportunities, and fosters corruption and the predation of the vulnerable, which creates community insecurity. And all these factors, and the inability or unwillingness of governance institutions to adequately address them, creates apathy, disempowerment and political insecurity.

Human security is inextricably connected to our natural environment, and global crises require a global response. This chapter will take a closer look at how GEG is responding to our global environmental crises, and the implications for human security. It will define GEG by looking at its purpose, principles, parties, and process. The chapter will then turn to the inseparable relationship between GEG and human security, and the challenges and opportunities for our ever-evolving notions of justice, law, and governance. Lastly, the chapter will offer the ethical and legal principle of ubuntu as guidance on how to strengthen human security, within and beyond GEG.

20.2 Defining Global Environmental Governance

Governance is an amorphous term that generally implies social constructs created to govern, or regulate, human behaviour. They are rooted in societal norms and values, sometimes translated from and into civil society, institutions, and laws, and implemented by individuals, families, societies, governments and non-governmental organizations. Local and national governance typically refers to hierarchical government-sanctioned institutions and the rule of law, but for global governance, where a single, global governing body is absent or limited, it takes the shape of local, national, and international individuals and institutions, governmental and non-governmental, that seek to influence either local behaviour that has a global impact (e.g. endangered species are of global concern for biodiversity, culture, and evolutionary processes), or collective global behaviour that has a local, regional, or global impact (e.g. collective GHG emissions contribute to global warming which causes rising waters in small island nations and migrations of people across borders).

Governance, when done for just purposes (as opposed to totalitarian, authoritarian, or fascist governance models), focuses on the fundamental relationships needed for harmony, for stability, for sustainable security: harmony between individuals living together with other individuals, and harmony between societies that live together with other societies. Some recent scholars have extended this prerequisite, or even this goal, of good governance — harmonious relationships — to the entire community of life (e.g. the UN Harmony with Nature programme). The recognition and respect for these relationships, and the rules that govern these relationships — or at least attempt to govern these relationships — provide safety, security, and stability for individuals, states, and the global community. As Chapter 16 presents in more detail, good governance is the foundation of our human and societal existence, so it must be part of the response to our most existential crises, such as climate change.

Global environmental governance is global governance as it relates to the environment. As humans upon this planet, we share a genuine universal responsibility to the planet and to one another. In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Dalai Lama spoke that “universal responsibility was the key to human survival.” (Dalai Lama, 1992). He believed that, “This need for a sense of universal responsibility affects every aspect of human life. Nowadays, significant events in one part of the world eventually affect the entire planet. Therefore, we have to treat each major local problem as a global concern, from the moment it begins.” (Dalai Lama, 1992, n.p.). Therefore, good global environmental governance recognizes interconnectedness and requires responsibility.

The heightened role of civil society, as seen in individual action and the work of non-governmental organizations, in helping shape global behaviour is unique to global governance; and indeed it could be considered the blood-line for GEG. Civil society helps to fill the gap left by the absence of a central governing body, a gap that needs to be filled due to the human and societal need to govern relationships, even across borders. These individuals and organizations are consultants, advisors, scholars, and practitioners to GEG, in principle and practice. They help develop, guide, and inform behaviour at universities and with governments, they inform conferences of the parties for treaty bodies, and they help draft national laws and policies related to local issues that impact the global environment, or global issues that affect local or state governments. They build trends and build solidarity. For example, their scholarly research and arguments can provide the reasoning and text for a state to include the right to a healthy environment in their laws, policies, cases, and constitution, that will then be shared with other scholars and policy-makers for incorporation in their laws, policies, cases, and constitutions. These individuals and organizations even have an important role in the private sector, whether shining a light on corruption, such as the work of Transparency International, or advancing corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

This trend-setting, momentum-building, and information-sharing is currently being seen in youth climate change cases, where children are striking and arguing for their rights and the rights of future generations to a healthy environment (Gwiazdon, 2018). It is also seen in the rights of nature movement, where rivers and ecosystems are being afforded legal personhood in constitutions, legislation, and case law.[1] Policy-makers and judges are looking for guidance, reasoning, and decisions outside of their jurisdiction, and — as GEG is cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary — there are park rangers and writers, educators and philosophers, lawyers and scientists, environmental defenders and economists, journalists and linguists around the world helping them develop and move law and policy. These individuals and organizations share knowledge, share successes, share failures, and recognize their strength in numbers. It is much easier for a judge to decide a case, or a state to adopt a constitutional amendment, if they see that others are doing it, and they can also learn exactly how others are doing it (e.g. modelling the particular language, the particular administrative and legal processes, etc.).

GEG, as an extension of global governance, has the same weaknesses as global governance, explored in detail in Section 20.3.2. A number of challenges exist, including the power of state sovereignty, and of particular states, to control or not participate in global negotiations, or to not be held accountable for harms outside their borders; the rise of nationalism among states; and the difficulty to motivate citizens to care about abstract issues or people far away. Particular to GEG is the sectoral nature of global ‘environmental’ governance that places it in competition with other issues; the absence of urgency, seriousness, and even justice for environmental harms; and the absence of a governing body for global environmental jurisprudence, its drafting, implementation, and enforcement. However, even without a single, central governing entity, common values and principles can be induced from the institutions and norms across nations, their cases, national laws, and treaties.

20.2.1 The Purpose and Principles of Global Environmental Governance

It is sometimes said that the only constant is change, and like the constantly evolving environment on which it relies, GEG is constantly evolving, constantly being informed, and constantly being affected by numerous actors and information. Nearly five decades ago, in 1972 (when The Limits of Growth was published by the Club of Rome), the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden made explicit the connection between humanity and the environment, and the need for a global approach to address the harm to life on Earth. This has been called the watershed moment for GEG, a clarion call for global action. Maurice Strong, the Secretary General of the conference, opened the proceedings with a plea for this new approach, “This… must be the beginning of a whole new approach to the situation. For the environmental crisis points up the need to review our activities, not just in relation to the particular purpose of interest they are designed to serve, but in their overall impact on the whole system of interacting relationships which determines the quality of human life.” (Strong, 1992, n.p.). He also linked bad human governance (here, governance resulting in inequality and injustice) with environmental harms, “Our subject is the human environment. Broadly interpreted, the human environment impinges upon the entire condition of man and cannot be seen in isolation from war and poverty, injustice and discrimination…” He understood that “all nations must accept responsibility for the consequences of their own actions on environments outside their borders” and argued that this is “the fundamental principle” that establishes “a minimum basis for effective, international cooperation.” (Strong, 1992, n.p.). He saw the crisis, the cause, the interconnectedness of humanity and harms, and the need for responsibility for those harms.

GEG is an all-inclusive endeavour, and so includes all levels of participation and decision-making, local to global, governmental and non-governmental, individuals and private entities. As diverse actors, the methodologies of the institutions of GEG differ, as well as their reasons for seeking to mould behaviour concerning the environment. However, the general aim of GEG, in its broadest sense, is to protect, provide, and prevent:

  1. GEG protects, conserves, and sustains the global environment for human flourishing and for the inherent value of nature;
  2. GEG aims to provide the necessities of life for human and social development, including providing stability and security to human individuals and societies, as well as the entire community of life, for current and future generations; and
  3. GEG aims to prevent harm, inequity, and suffering, as well as the crossing of catastrophic tipping points for life on Earth.

The many purposes for GEG are seen in organizational mission statements, local, national, and international charters, bi-lateral and multi-lateral treaties (most often in the preambles, where beautiful, aspiratory — and non-binding — language is common), principles of international law, customary international law, state constitutions, and domestic law and policy. They may be subject-matter specific, as broad as climate change adaptation or as narrow as the protection of a particular species; or they may be methodology-specific, such as the educational programmes of the Earth Charter Initiative or efforts to incorporate the rights of nature in law and policy, as seen through the work of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.[2]

Maurice Strong, as well as the Dalai Lama, believed that the fundamental principle of GEG was responsibility, or justice, and that is extended here to include principles of democracy, equity and care. GEG advances care for the vulnerable people, places, and species in this world, and care for the past and future generations of those people, places, and species. Care is evidenced in the protection of natural parks, in the designation of biosphere reserves, in the programmes to save endangered species and their habitats, in the laws and policies for clean air and water and soil. Care requires that we extend our compassion to other humans, and also to other species, and the natural foundations upon which all life rests. An important aspect of GEG is expanding our circles of care, from the most intimate to the entire community of life.

When things we care about are harmed, we are moved to act – and this forms the roots of justice. Unfortunately, most if not all great movements were a response to a great injustice, and GEG is no different. The Earth is wholly being harmed by human action, yet few are being held accountable for any harms committed (or at least, as data shows, not enough are being held accountable to prevent future harms or correct harmful behaviour). Is this due to an absence of laws, of enforcement, of political will — or all three? Justice demands we address, who or what is harmed, why and by whom, how can it be made whole again, and how can we prevent future harm? What is true, and what is fair? And who has a voice that determines the rules, regulations, the harm, and the recovery? This is where democracy joins the conversation in GEG. As discussed in more detail below, a fundamental component to GEG is dialogue and diplomacy, informed by many disciplines, from science to philosophy. States, with the assistance of NGOs, come together to address global concerns, yet sometimes these harms are caused, sometimes disproportionately, by particular nations. In the interest of democracy and justice, who has a voice at the decision-making table, and in the interest of equity, are all voices of equal political power? Why are there so many binding (i.e. enforceable by an adjudication body) international trade laws, and so few binding international environmental laws? Why is the continuation of our existence not afforded the same seriousness as our global trade regimes? Who decides this — and why?

20.2.2 The Parties and Practice of Global Environmental Governance

What is exciting about GEG, yet can also be overwhelming, is the sheer number of voices that can and do inform its development. Without a single, centralized governing entity or secretariat body, nearly anyone can have a voice in its organization and movement. The power of that voice, however, is another concern, and will be discussed more thoroughly below when exploring the challenges to GEG.

The environment is the foundation of all life on Earth; therefore, when discussing its protection, and depending on how narrow or broad a particular entity’s understanding of the term ‘environment’ is, all sectors, all disciplines, any individual, any private or public organization, and all nations — in their local governance and in their involvement in global governance, if any — are all potential parties to GEG. Some are explicit in their involvement, like the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for the Conservation for Nature, while others can be incorporated into the research, development, or advocacy of GEG by third parties, such as comparative review and research of domestic laws by practitioners, academics, or consultants.

For example, to the latter point, ‘the human right to a healthy environment’ is being asked to be adopted by the United Nations, and so the appropriate bodies of the UN and their consultants — many from non-governmental organizations — are reviewing the laws of nations to see the arguments, cases, and legislative developments in this area. When these laws were being created by nations, they did not have to know or explicitly state that they were informing GEG, but in practice, they are. And data collection for the development of environmental norms and policies will go into all areas of research and development. For example, for an article on human security and GEG, it is important to look to governmental and non-governmental national security bodies that may never or rarely mention the environment, but yet the connections can still be made. If the South China Sea is the largest trade route in the world, and that area is being militarized through artificial island development and the illegal expansion of borders, this not only affects global trade, but also the resources in those waters, the people who rely on those resources, and the increased tensions of the states and the people of the entire region. Because of the actions of one state for national security interests, the economic, environmental, food — human security — of millions of others is now at risk.[3] GEG connects these issues, in all of their complexity and comprehensiveness.

To have a full picture of GEG and all that it entails, and also understanding the inter-relatedness of all life on Earth, then all human activities on Earth can and should be considered potential material for its development. For the implications of public health to human security, including climate-related vectors, we can look to the Center for Disease Control (US) or the World Health Organization. For the effects of global trade, including endangered animals or hazardous waste, on human security, we can look to the World Trade Organization, anti-poaching units, or national security bodies. For the importance of the conservation, culture, and natural history to human security, we can look to organizations like the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (Jordan) or the Paris Muséum nationale d’histoire naturelle. For data on the impacts of climate change on human security, we can look to the US Department of Defense or the World Meteorological Organization. To understand GEG and human security, we can look to some small entity that focuses on women’s empowerment in some small city, or some major entity that focuses on micro-lending in some major city. Everyone has the potential to inform GEG — and this is an exciting thing.

Just as the parties of GEG differ, so does their preferred practice. The procedural and substantive methodologies of GEG take several different approaches, depending on their stated aims and audience. A common thread to GEG procedure, however, is the central tenet of dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiations. This is necessary due to the nature of GEG, where each state is its own sovereign entity, and there is no single global governance institution that administers or enforces a particular global law. Nations must speak to one another and nations must compromise if there is to be any viable governance of global issues.

The state is responsible for protecting the conditions of life for its citizens and their personal and communal development, and is at least somewhat accountable to its citizens to do so (i.e. elected officials can be voted out, or citizens can — if pushed far enough — revolt); however, GEG goes beyond the relationship between nations, and into the relationships between all entities and all humans. Yet, the states, with self-imposed limits in justice and jurisdiction, at least when environmental harms are concerned, continue to be the real power-holders. As they consolidate power or refuse to act, or refuse to act enough or quickly enough, others step up to fill the gap. For GEG, those are largely non-governmental entities. However, and most visible with climate change, cities and youth activists around the world are starting to lead the conversation and policies, as well as demand state action on global harms.

Another important procedural aspect that is largely unique to GEG is the heightened role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities in its research, development, and decision-making. GEG includes binding and non-binding laws, and NGOs play a part in all its parts. They offer comparative review and analysis of national laws, looking for trends and new approaches; they review the philosophical underpinnings of current actions in attempts to understand environmental crises, how we have reached them and how we can move beyond them; they offer the scientific underpinnings to many of the principles of GEG, including the utter dependence of humanity on the natural world, as well as the inter-relatedness of all life; and they help to build bridges and solidarity between nations during negotiations and diplomacy efforts. For many intergovernmental organizations, like the UN or IUCN, they also serve as parties, observers, or experts and are able to inform dialogues, treaties, and investigations. The importance and particular role of NGOs in GEG in this age of social media cannot be understated. However, they still lack a key element to global justice for environmental harms — enforceability.

There are several different substantive approaches to GEG in practice, including but not limited to economic, education, ethical, scientific, and law and policy approaches. There are even market approaches to GEG, such as efforts that advance natural capital, ecosystem services, and cap and trade regimes. This chapter does not attempt to pass judgment on particular approaches, but it is important to be aware that institutions that fall under the GEG umbrella are not of a uniform type, and there are even disagreements among the institutions. For example, there are global conservation organizations that use trophy hunting as a conservation practice, and there are those who vehemently oppose such methods. There are those who argue for the commodification of nature to motivate states to better protect it, and those who see putting a price on nature as morally repugnant and ultimately more damaging. It is also important to understand that not a single approach should be seen as necessarily the right, or the only, approach — a point particularly relevant in global governance where all peoples, all nations, and even all species and habitats are taken into consideration.

Another substantive approach that allows for variations in GEG is the positioning of humans. Some entities place humans as the central argument for protection (e.g. human rights approaches), while others take a more systematic, Earth-centred approach (e.g. Earth jurisprudence), and yet still others who seek to address the tension between the two approaches (e.g. trusteeship approaches). Human-centred approaches can be seen in climate change action and land use law, as well as policies that affect biodiversity and endangered species (noting their role in human evolutionary processes and development), freshwater use and access, agricultural practices, disaster preparedness, responses to mass refugees, and military operations.

There are also efforts to transform the human-centred approach, which can be interpreted as utilitarian and largely sectoral, to a more systemic, holistic approach. In 2016, the Ecological Law and Governance Association was launched at the University of Siena as a global, multi-disciplinary network of academics and practitioners that seek to transform ‘anthropocentric, fragmented’ environmental law to a more holistic, scientifically accurate ecological law, understanding that human rights — or even humanity — cannot exist without the natural foundations of life.

A step further is taken by efforts to give legally-recognizable rights to nature completely separate from their value to humans. Such ecocentrism is seen at the local and state level, such as the Constitution of Ecuador which recognizes Pachamama, or nature, as a legal entity, with rights to its own evolutionary processes; the 2017 Te Awa Tupua Act that affords the Whanganui River and ecosystem legal standing; the 2017 ruling in the High Court of Uttarakhand in India that recognized that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, the Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers, and their related ecosystems have ‘the status of a legal person’; and, in 2019, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights Charter Amendment in Toledo, Ohio that gives legal standing to Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States that together account for 20% of the world’s freshwater.

Human rights arguments and the rights of nature movement are just a couple of many justice approaches to GEG. This may be the most difficult approach as there is no single global governing entity to implement global environmental law, let alone enforce it, therefore, action and enforcement is dependent upon the will of a particular state. Local, regional, and national courts do hear cases on environmental harms, and those decisions are incorporated within the GEG movement, but there is yet to be a global environmental court to hold states or entities responsible for violations of a global environmental constitution within a global rule of law. Sometimes environmental cases will arise before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but its parties and its jurisdiction are limited. The ICJ will hear disputes between member states if there is a perceived treaty violation or a violation of a principle of environmental law or customary international law, or they will offer advisory opinions if there is a question of international law.[4]

In addition, in 2016, the International Criminal Court, an intergovernmental body that hears cases against individuals from member states for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression, expanded its prosecutorial remit to include environmental crimes (ICC Office of the Prosecutor, 2016). Although there have not yet been any environmental criminal cases seen before the court, it was seen as a promising development in GEG as an effort to take environmental harms more seriously. Another justice-based approach that is gaining global momentum is the recognition and defence of the rights of future generations. It has been incorporated in numerous charters and constitutions and has been argued successfully in some national courts.

20.3 Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

GEG is fundamentally about the survival and flourishing of life; human security is fundamentally about the survival and flourishing of life. Since the first edition of this publication, in 2013, a formal debate was held on human security by the UN President of the General Assembly. The resulting document was Resolution 66/290, “Follow-up to paragraph 143 on human security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome” (UNGA Res. 66/290, 2012). The document recognized that “human security is an approach to assist Member States in identifying and addressing widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people,” and continued with a common understanding of human security based on eight points, with, as is typical of multi-national documents (at least those where human rights or environmental protections are concerned), very clear lines drawn concerning responsibility and state sovereignty:

  1. “The right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair,” in particularly vulnerable people, with equal opportunity to develop their potential;
  2. a people-centred approach that is context-specific, comprehensive, and prevention oriented;
  3. peace, development, and human rights, as well as political, economic, social, and cultural rights, are all inter-linked;
  4. human security is separate from the responsibility to protect (the UN understanding of Responsibility to Protect is very specific, it provides a framework for state intervention, including the use of force, to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity);
  5. human security does not entail the use of force and “does not replace State security;”
  6. human security is based on “national ownership” and global efforts are meant to strengthen state efforts;
  7. States retain “the primary role and responsibility for ensuring the survival, livelihood, and dignity of their citizens,” and the role of the global community is to provide support to Governments, upon their request; and
  8. human security must be implemented with full consideration to the UN Charter, “with full respect for the sovereignty of States, territorial integrity and non-interference.” (UNGA Res. 66/290, 2012).

This crucial definition section concludes, “human security does not entail additional legal obligations” on States (UNGA Res. 66/290, 2012). So much of this understanding of human security shows the weakness of any global response to anything that threatens human security — state sovereignty trumps all else, and the global community places no legal obligations to secure humanity, outside of what states choose or choose not to provide. Here, we have perhaps the most legitimate global governance body effectively neutering global action to respond to crises that affect the security of humanity. Is the only reason for dialogue and diplomacy to limit states involvement with other states? Is this the only model of global governance that we have? One founded upon complete submissiveness to State’s rights that global action — and global justice for harms committed — is rendered impotent? Is global governance nothing more than advice ‘upon request’?

While the idea that human security is within the ‘national ownership’ of states (as stated above) may be the standing national or international legal understanding, that does not make it right, or just. Yet, it does perhaps shine some light on why so many humans are insecure today. We are trying to govern as if humans are not affected by other humans, as if citizens are not affected by issues outside of their borders, or with some states, as if the way humans are treated within their borders — good or bad — is justifiable due to state’s rights. Human security is the concern of all humanity, even if global governance has not yet evolved to provide the processes or structure to support this understanding.

Human security is also fundamentally reliant upon healthy ecosystems. The starting point to all GEG should not be state’s rights, but the basic scientific truths that humanity is utterly dependent on the natural environment and that all life is interrelated and interdependent, irrespective of any man-made, artificial boundaries. The state of humans cannot be separated from the state of their environment, yet we see the divisions and separations of the environment from all else every day: ‘environmental’ law, ‘sustainable’ development approach, ‘climate change’ policy, as if the state of the environment and its systemic relations with all life and all human activities can or should be placed on a negotiation table in competition with the economy, or jobs or national security.

And even within these compartmentalized approaches are additional compartments. For example, sustainable development is still seen as three pillars: economic, social, and environmental. Yet, how can society or economy exist without its environmental foundations? As our scientific charts for life on Earth are spiralling downwards (e.g. 83% of wild mammals have become extinct, and microplastics are found in the air, in water, and in nearly every life-form tested — as detailed in Chapter 12), because our frameworks do not speak to scientific truths. There are not three pillars to sustainable development – there is one foundation upon which all else rests, and upon which all else is inter-related, our natural foundations. This is just another example of man-made, artificial borders, but this time within our law and governance systems.[5]

It is important to also note that those who frame the arguments in terms of compartmentalized and competitive sectors, most often seen as environment versus economy, are sometimes those who are doing the most harm. In this false equivalency and forced competition of environment versus [insert any important issue here, such as national security or human security], the environment will never win; indeed, neither will the issue in competition, as failing to protect the foundations of life ultimately harms all else. GEG helps to re-frame the argument that human security is firstly and fundamentally reliant upon the natural environment, whether it is mass migrations of refugees due to resource scarcity or civil wars caused by climate change, or slave labour used by the shrimp industry due to the high consumptive demand for inexpensive shrimp, alongside corruption and/or a lack of political will to defend human rights. When the environment is separated from security, we are all less secure, we are all more vulnerable.

Twenty years after the seminal UNDP Human Development Report on human security was released, the 2014 UNDP Human Development Report, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” focused on broadening the human security approach to vulnerability – vulnerability of individuals, communities, and states, and the inherent, systemic, or structural issues that impede human development progress and threaten people’s capabilities and choices (UNDP, 2014). The authors noted that since 1994, several interpretations of human security were too narrow, such as viewing it solely as freedom from physical assault. Vulnerability is “defencelessness, insecurity and exposure to risks, shocks and stress,” and “one way to reduce vulnerability is to prevent disasters,” such as the global approach to climate change or the organization of global financial systems. (UNDP, 2014, p. 15). The following section elaborates on the particular concerns behind the notion of vulnerability and the threats we are facing in the Anthropocene.

20.3.1 Global Environmental Crises and Human Security

In 1994, it was understood that human security was safety from hunger, disease, crime, and repression, as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in our lives, whether at home, at work, in our communities or in our environment (UNDP, 1994). The effects of environmental harms, and most importantly climate change, are much more visible today than 25 years ago, including their direct and indirect repercussions on hunger, disease, crime, and repression, and their ability to cause sudden, harmful disruptions on our lives. Not only are natural disasters increasing in strength and frequency, but a warming planet is decreasing biodiversity and increasing pests and pestilence. Climate change is creating resource scarcity, desertification, and fostering civil unrest, crime, corruption, and power-grabs, all which is precipitating mass migrations of refugees across borders. A warming, acidifying ocean is also bleaching corals and destroying habitats for innumerable species upon which entire food systems, cultures, and economies rely. The causes of climate change are known, the methods to prevent or halt a warming planet are known, and the steps needed to build resiliency are known — yet states are not acting urgently or effectively enough.

All humanity is vulnerable to the state of the environment, but some more so than others. This is why justice and equity are crucial to understanding human security and GEG, to protecting humanity and their foundations of life. The impacts of environmental harms, and so their correlating impacts on human security, occur disproportionately to the poor and marginalized, to women, elderly, and children, to people of minority faiths, limited opportunity, and indigenous peoples. Not everyone has the same opportunity to succeed, the same access to justice, the same resources or abilities to build personal or communal resilience, or the same infrastructure to be educated, to progress, and to become active citizens. There are direct links between air, water, and food pollutants and disabilities, between public health and environmental health, between access, opportunity, and income. Human security can be achieved through the protection and empowerment of the most vulnerable — for if the most vulnerable are protected, we are all protected.

For a general overview of global environmental crises that threaten human security, it is helpful to look to the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the 2012 Resolution noted above, immediately following the section that defines human security, it states that human security should “contribute to realizing sustainable development” (UNGA Res. 66/290, 2012). In September 2015, almost exactly three years after the passage of that resolution, Resolution 70/1, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was adopted by all member nations of the UN (UNGA Res. 70/1, 2015). The Agenda “is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” (UNGA Res. 70/1, 2015).

For human development, for societal development, for national development, for global development, the SDGs link priority areas that must be urgently addressed by all nations on Earth. They address all issues where GEG and human security are intimately linked: poverty; hunger; health; education; gender equality; water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; consumption and production practices; climate action; consideration for the life below our waters and life on land; peace, justice, and strong institutions; and partnerships. The SDGs show the inter-relatedness of all issues that promote human security, yet even focusing on one — climate change — shows the weakness of GEG. Humanity is in an existential crisis, yet there is an absence of global leadership and global action to address it. This almost seems to be the intended design for GEG, where state’s rights govern state action, and state’s rights govern global action, and with no accountability for global harms. What does that say about the state of GEG if it cannot even respond to the most important global environmental — global life — issue of our time?

20.3.2 Addressing the Challenges to Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

There are several challenges, some already highlighted, to effective GEG (noting that effective GEG helps to achieve human security). Yet challenges are also opportunities for change, and so both will be addressed in this section. Any inquiry into the effectiveness of GEG, or even more broadly global governance, must begin with an analysis of state sovereignty. They are the actors and the inhibitors to global action, and the citizens and industries under their jurisdiction are the perpetrators of and the victims to global harms. They create the systems and laws that govern those within their borders, as well as the systems and laws that govern their relationships with other states. And in global governance bodies, they have chosen to govern by asserting state’s rights. But what about the duties of a state?

The primary duty of the state is to protect its citizens — this is its raison d’être — and as its citizens are directly and indirectly affected by the actions of individuals and industries outside of its borders, and the actions or inactions of other states, a state must engage in global dialogue on global crises to satisfy that duty. In other words, the failure of a state to seriously engage in GEG is a dereliction of its primary duty to protect its citizens. For example, with the climate change talks, powerful emitter nations may simply refuse to seriously engage in global negotiations, or they may actively manipulate negotiations to weaken the resultant agreement. This affects national emission reduction commitments and accountability for present or historical harms outside their borders.

The state protects and provides the foundation for humanity to flourish — and integral in this, is the recognition that all humanity, and all states, are interconnected. The foundational understandings of humanity’s utter dependence on the natural environment, and the inter-connectedness of all life, are directly at odds with the current understanding of a sovereign nation defined within man-made geopolitical boundaries. Harm does not stop at borders and humanity is not made more secure by walls. Our security is dependent upon the actions of one another, and no action can be seen in isolation. Scientific truths must be integrated into law and governance frameworks.

It is crucial that states see themselves as integral parts to the whole, and existing only because of the whole and its relationships within that whole. Thomas Hobbes stated in Leviathan, “He that is to govern a whole Nation, must read in himself, not this, or that particular man; but Man-kind.” (Hobbes, 1651, p. 3). Each state is that protector of the whole — the people, the land, the waters, and the air. They must not only protect their citizens from internal and external harms, but also guarantee that the whole is well cared for, providing the best foundations for which their citizens can flourish and exercise their fundamental rights. The state must also provide the goods and services that individuals cannot provide for themselves, such as a healthy environment, water, and sanitation. They must also provide the infrastructure of care that allows citizens to flourish economically and socially, providing checks on corruption and injustice (Gwiazdon, 2018, p. 9).

Martha Nussbaum is a lawyer, philosopher, and a principal architect of the Human Development Approach, now used by such global institutions as the World Bank and the UNDP. Nussbaum underscores that the duty of a state is to provide its people the ability to pursue a dignified and flourishing life, and highlights ten Central Capabilities: life (being able to live a full life and not die prematurely); bodily health (being able to have good health); bodily integrity (being able to move freely and be free from violence); senses, imagination, and thought (being able to imagine, think, and reason, nurtured by education and training); emotions (being able to love and grieve); practical reason (being able to understand the good and critically reflect); affiliation (being able to live in harmony with others, and with one-self); other species (being able to care for and in relation to nature); play (being able to play); and control over one’s environment, political and material (being able to participate in choices that govern one’s life, have property, and work) (Nussbaum, 2011, pp. 33–34). If states are not protecting their own citizens, air, land, and waters, they are harming the whole; if states are not protecting the whole, they are harming their own citizens, air, land, and waters — and are making all of humanity less secure.

Human security is achieved through justice. Wendell Phillips (1811–1884) was an American lawyer and social reformer dedicated to the abolition of slavery. Confronting this grave inhumanity, he argued, “the first duty of society is JUSTICE.” (Phillips, 1891: 6).[6] The very purpose of the justice system is to provide the rules and institutions for governing sustainable and stable human societies, and inasmuch as possible, for preventing cruelty and great harm. To the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC), “Justice never is anything in itself, but in the dealings of men with one another in any place whatever at any time it is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed.” (Epicurus, 1926, p. 103).

People need to know that when harms occur, the perpetrators will be held to account, and the victims will be made whole. Yet, as discussed above, there is no consistent mechanism to seek justice for global environmental harms. There is no global environmental court, and even the ICJ and ICC are limited by procedural and subject-matter jurisdiction. If states ratify a treaty, however, there is usually a set legal recourse, and some states do adopt international agreements through local policies or national legislation, which are more directly enforceable. But for the most part with GEG, states can always rely on their state sovereignty — they can always ultimately choose not to be a party to any global agreements, no matter their contributions to global harm or to other nations or vulnerable peoples. They can choose not to recognize the jurisdiction of a foreign or global court. They can retreat from their global responsibilities behind their artificial, man-made walls.

The lack of accountability for global harms and the lack of enforcement of international environmental agreements — in other words, the lack of justice in GEG — is a, if not the, major challenge to its effectiveness and its ability to foster human security. Even when data is clear that, for example, the emissions from these nations are major contributors to global climate change, that those emissions harm others outside of their borders, and that those being impacted most severely are the poor and vulnerable, and also the ones who are not causing the harm, there is no accountability. If states can cause measurable harm to individuals outside their borders without accountability, then is there truly no justice in global environmental governance?

The inquiry into justice is eternal. The noted German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) knew that “there must be continually be new legal determinations.” (Hegel, 1991, pp. 212–213, explained throughout §216).[7] Justice can never be perfect or complete; it is alive, evolving, progressing. As such, and as Amartya Sen, the noted philosopher and author of The Idea of Justice, argues, “We need justitia, not justitium.” (Sen, 2009, p. 74). In other words, we need a living, evolving justice process, not a stagnant, obstinate justice principle. If the primary duty of the state is to protect, and the first duty of a society is justice, then it is no surprise that we are facing so many global environmental crises. GEG affords no duty to protect, there is no duty to provide justice. After all, without a global governing body, who would own and enforce that duty?

Another challenge to GEG is the anonymity of global governance in general. In seeking common principles, in seeking universality, the particular — the biodiversity, the culture, the languages, the environment that makes us particular, individual persons often disappears, and so does their power to motivate and lead to real change. It is simply more difficult for people to relate to a larger, amorphous, unknown whole than the particulars of their own home, community, or nation. It is argued that the further we go out from our most intimate circles of care, the less we care. It is much easier to not respond to harm thousands of miles away, than harm immediately in front of us. This can be overcome, however, through the understanding and application of ubuntu and rooted cosmopolitanism. Rooted cosmopolitanism is the idea that we can be informed and rooted by our local experiences, without losing sight of our global place, of our global relationships. We must see our humanity in others, and because of others. We must see our security in others, and because of others — not as defence from others.

20.3.3 A Way Forward: A Relational Approach to GEG and Human Security

Ethics is the foundation of the rule of law, and we need an ethical principle to guide the future of GEG. Ubuntu is a relational ethic from tribes across Southern Africa that has been explored and advanced in great depth by some of the world’s most thoughtful political and spiritual minds, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Ubuntu is an ethic — or a set of values — of care and interdependence. And it is an ethic that directly confronts all of the major challenges of GEG, from strict interpretations of state sovereignty that foster nationalism and isolationism, to power imbalances and predation or disregard of the vulnerable, and even the disconnect from far-away harms.

Ubuntu roughly translates into, “I am because we are,” and places our identity, our humanity, within our relationships to others. It understands that “my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound, in yours” and “a person is a person through other persons.” (Tutu, 1999, p. 31). This is not at the expense of the diversity of local people, places, and cultures, but through that diversity. The principles and values behind ubuntu should be extended to the state; after all, a state is only a state because of other states.

Embracing ubuntu could also help us confront another challenge to GEG, the rising trend of hyper-nationalism as an excuse to refrain from global dialogue on our global crises. We see this most notably in the withdrawal by the US — the world’s largest emitter — from the climate change talks, and indeed, their President’s self-proclamation as a nationalist. Nationalism and hyper-individualism more easily allow for harms to the ‘other’ occur, and this may be a root cause to many of our global crises. The true, relational aspect of state sovereignty must be brought to the forefront instead of the harmful hyper-individualism fostered by hyper-nationalism.

Ubuntu has also been used as a legal and governance principle to heal broken relationships, inequalities, insecurities, the root causes of many of our global conservation, security, and governance crises. Archbishop Tutu believed that through ubuntu, democratic South Africa was “right to deal with apartheid-era political crimes by seeking reconciliation or restorative justice.” (Metz, 2017, n.p.). If “social harmony is for us the summum bonum — the greatest good’ then the primary aim when dealing with wrongdoing should be to establish harmonious relationships with wrongdoers and victims.” (Tutu, 1999, p. 35). Could this be a new framework for GEG?

We may learn much in ethics, law, and global governance from South Africa’s apartheid and their transition into a democracy. “Apartheid not only prevented ‘races’ from identifying with one another or exhibiting solidarity with one another. It went further by having one ‘race’ subordinate…” and allowing that race to harm others (Metz, 2017, n.p.). It made people “less human for their failure to participate on an evenhanded basis and to share power, wealth, land, opportunities, and even themselves.” (Metz, 2017, n.p.). This provides uncomfortable parallels with how states globally govern today. Some have more power than others and use that power to cause harm or shield themselves from responsibility. And some are more vulnerable, and often made-so at the hands of the powerful, such as with colonialism and climate change. Opportunities are unequal, power is unequal, life is unequal. Is our current system of global governance a model of global apartheid?

We see these power imbalances in nearly every global negotiation. Indeed, it is embedded within the very structure of the UN, whereby even the collection of 134 developing nations known as the G-77 (it was founded in 1964 with 77 member nations), does not carry the weight of any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Power imbalances create unjust laws and foster inequity and inequality — they create instability and insecurity, and these imbalances are not the sole province of states. This is seen when powerful industries flood money into lobbying to control legislation or even to determine how arguments are framed, including campaigns to deliberately disinform. We must commit to re-define how we negotiate laws if we ever hope to address the inequities and injustice that these agreements create or allow.

We must extend the ethic of ubuntu to the community of states. A human is a human because of, and among, other humans; humanity is defined by, empowered by, constrained by, and conditional upon others, and our relationships to others. A nation is a nation because of, and among, other nations; sovereignty is defined by, empowered by, constrained by, and conditional upon others. And in no just governance system can one harm another without consequence.

20.4 The Future of Global Environmental Governance and Human Security

It is time for global governance to evolve. The charts show our trajectories and the data is clear: a rapidly changing climate, mass species extinctions, the acidification of our oceans, the collapse of fisheries — our current approach to global environmental crises is not enough and the foundations of human life, of human security, are crumbling. It is time to look at its purpose, its principles, its parties, its practice, to see what is working and not working, and to move forward courageously and comprehensively.

Most movements for justice have been a response to witnessing great injustices — and great injustices are everywhere. We live in a global geopolitical climate where powerful nations and organisations unduly control the dialogue, the negotiations, and the rules which govern them, and govern us all. We live in a world where states, and those entities under their jurisdiction, can harm without consequence, a world where vulnerable people are made more insecure, not by their own actions, but by the actions of consumers and producers thousands of miles away. We live in a world where nationalism is rising as high as the walls these nations are trying to build, purposefully denying aid to those seeking refuge due to climate-exacerbated emergencies — emergencies that they have not even caused. This is not fair, this is not just, this is not sustainable. States are turning inward at the very moment that life on Earth demands them to look beyond themselves, and to the relationships with those around them.

Our notions of state sovereignty must be re-assessed. Our notions of global justice must be re-assessed. Our notions of care, community, and responsibility must be re-assessed. A global environmental body, constitution, or court could help move GEG, but it would not be enough. It would still be a disconnected ‘environmental’ approach that is in competition with other sectors, and it likely would not rise to the seriousness that our existential environmental and human crises require. The environment is cross-cutting, and foundational to all else. A global governance body that sets the protection of the environment – the foundations of life – as its fundamental concern could possibly work, if the environment is made central to all other decisions and if states are willing to re-define or limit their own sovereignty out of concern for the global whole, in light of their relations to one another, as opposed to the power of their single self.

Ubuntu has been used as an ethical and legal principle to help address great injustices in a state. It is now time to expand these principles of inter-connectedness and reconciliation to our global environment, natural and geopolitical. For the future of life, we must embrace a more systematic, relational understanding of not only the environment or security, but of humanity, of the state, and of the global community.

Resources and References


Key Points

  • The scientific understandings that humanity is utterly dependent on the natural environment,and that all life is inter-connected, needs to be incorporated in law, policy and governance.
  • All components of human security are inter-related, and all components of human security are directly and indirectly affected by the natural environment.
  • Human security is the concern of all humanity, even if global governance has not yet evolved to provide the processes or structure to support this understanding.
  • Justice and equity are crucial to understanding human security and GEG, to protecting humanity and the foundations of life. The impacts of environmental harms, and so their correlating impacts on human security, occur disproportionately to the poor and marginalized, to women, elderly and children, to people of minority faiths, limited opportunity and indigenous tribes.
  • GEG, as an extension of global governance, has the same challenges as global governance, including the power of state sovereignty, and power of particular states, to control or not participate in global negotiations, or to not be held accountable for harms outside their borders; the rise of nationalism among states; and the difficulty to motivate citizens to care about abstract issues or people far away. Particular to GEG is the sectoral nature of global ‘environmental’ governance that places it in competition with other issues; the absence of urgency, seriousness, and even justice for environmental harms; and the absence of a governing body for global environmental jurisprudence, its drafting, implementation and enforcement.
  • A more relational approach to global governance, as seen through the ethical and legal principle of ubuntu, and a less sectoral approach to environmental protection, could address some of the current challenges of GEG.


Extension Activities & Further Research

  • What are the duties of the state, and how do those duties relate to others outside their borders?
  • If you could re-construct the GEG framework, how would you do so to be most effective to protect the natural environment and human security? For example, how would you incorporate limits to growth?
  • Why is GEG not afforded the same seriousness as more enforceable international treaties and agreements — such as world trade regimes? What would it take to heighten the seriousness of GEG agreements?
  • How do you think states can or should be held accountable for harms that they create outside their borders?
  • Identify two conflicting approaches within GEG and explain why you think one is a more effective approach than the other in advancing the general aims of GEG (e.g. the arguments around trophy hunting, cap and trade regimes, etc.).
  • Please identify a global environmental crisis and explain how it relates to human security, why you believe it has become a crisis, and how you would advise the parties of GEG to confront it.
  • Please identify five local, five regional, and five international non-governmental or governmental organizations that directly or indirectly inform GEG, and provide a brief background of their purpose, their guiding principles, and their methodology.
  • Referring to the seven challenges to GEG (second last item on the initial list of Big Ideas), describe some illustrative examples from the current news.
  • What do you personally foresee as the future evolution of GEG?

List of Terms

See Glossary for full list of terms and definitions.

  • global environmental governance (GEG)
  • global governance
  • governance
  • rooted cosmopolitanism
  • ubuntu

Suggested Reading

Bosselmann, K. (2016). The principle of sustainability: Transforming law and governance (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Bosselmann, K., & Taylor, P. (Eds.). (2017). Ecological approaches to environmental law. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Brown, W. (2017). Walled states, waning sovereignty (2nd ed.). Zone Books.

Corry, O., & Stevenson, H. (2018). Traditions and trends in global environmental politics: International relations and the Earth. Routledge.

Gwiazdon, K. A. (2017). International law and human security: The environmental and geopolitical impacts of China’s artificial island-building at Fiery Cross Reef. In L. Westra, J. Gray, & F.-T. Gottwald (Eds.), The role of integrity in the governance of the commons: Governance, ecology, law, ethics (pp. 105–122). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54392-5_7

Horowitz, L. S., & Watts, M. J. (Eds.). (2017). Grassroots environmental governance: Community engagements with industry. Routledge.

Jennings, B. (2016). Ecological governance: Toward a new social contract with the Earth. West Virginia University Press.

Kotzé, Louis. (2012). Global environmental governance: Law and regulation for the 21st century. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Najam, A., Papa, M., Taiyab, N., & International Institute for Sustainable Development. (2006). Global environmental governance: A reform agenda. International Institute of Sustainable Development.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2011). Creating capabilities: The human development approach. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2013). Political emotions: Why love matters for justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Pattberg, P., & Zelli, F. (Eds.). (2016). Environmental politics and governance in the Anthropocene: Institutions and legitimacy in a complex world. Routledge.

United Nations Development Programme. (1994). Human development report 1994: New dimensions of human security. http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-1994

UNDP. (2014). Human development report 2014 – Sustaining human progress: Reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience. http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2014


Dalai Lama. (1992, June 7). Universal responsibility and the global environment: Address at the Rio Earth Summit. https://www.dalailama.com/messages/environment/global-environment

Epicurus. (1926). Epicurus: The extant remains (C. Bailey, Trans.). Clarendon Press. https://archive.org/details/EpicurusTheExtantRemainsBaileyOxford1926_201309/page/n1/mode/2up (Original work published ca. 300 B.C.E.)

Gwiazdon, K. A. (2017). International law and human security: The environmental and geopolitical impacts of China’s artificial island-building at Fiery Cross Reef. In L. Westra, J. Gray, & F.-T. Gottwald (Eds.), The role of integrity in the governance of the commons: Governance, ecology, law, ethics (pp. 105–122). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54392-5_7

Gwiazdon, K. A. (2018). The state versus the environment: The ethical and legal implications for state non-action in protecting the foundations of life. In L. Westra, K. Bosselmann, J. Gray, & K. Gwiazdon (Eds.), Ecological integrity, law and governance. Routledge.

Hegel, G. W. F. (1991). Hegel: Elements of the philosophy of right (A. W. Wood, Ed.; H. B. Nisbet, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511808012

Hobbes, T. (1881). Leviathan; Or, the matter, forme, and power of a commonwealth ecclesiasticall and civill. J. Thornton. (Original work published 1651)

International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor. (2016). Policy paper on case selection and prioritisation. https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=policy-paper-on-case-selection-and-prioritisation

Metz, T. (2017, October 4). What Archbishop Tutu’s ubuntu credo teaches the world about justice and harmony. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/what-archbishop-tutus-ubuntu-credo-teaches-the-world-about-justice-and-harmony-84730

Najam, A., Papa, M., & Taiyab, N. (2006). Global environmental governance: A reform agenda. International Institute for Sustainable Development. https://www.iisd.org/publications/global-environmental-governance-reform-agenda

Nussbaum, M. C. (2011). Creating capabilities: The human development approach. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2013). Political emotions: Why love matters for justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Pattberg, P., & Zelli, F. (Eds.). (2016). Environmental politics and governance in the Anthropocene: Institutions and legitimacy in a complex world. Routledge.

Phillips, W. (1861). Disunion: Two discourses at Music Hall, on January 20th, and February 17th, 1861. Robert F. Wallcut.

Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Strong, M. (1992, June 3). Opening statement to the Rio Summit. MauriceStrong.net. https://www.mauricestrong.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=165&Itemid=86

Tutu, D. (1999). No future without forgiveness. Doubleday.

United Nations. (2012). Follow-up to paragraph 143 on human security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome (UN A/RES/66/290). https://www.un.org/ga/search/viewm_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/290

UN. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development (UN A/RES/70/1). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld/publication

United Nations Development Programme. (1994). Human development report 1994: New dimensions of human security. http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-1994

UNDP. (2014). Human development report 2014 – Sustaining human progress: Reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience. http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2014

  1. See generally the UN Harmony with Nature programme, which is the most complete compilation available of city and state action to incorporate legally recognized rights for nature.
  2. For more information on the Earth Charter, see the Earth Charter website, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund website, and Chapter 16.
  3. For an article that explores this topic, see Gwiazdon, Kathryn. (2017). International Law and Human Security: The Environmental and Geopolitical Impacts of China’s Artificial Island-Building at Fiery Cross Reef. In: Westra L., Gray J., Gottwald FT. (eds), The Role of Integrity in the Governance of the Commons. New York, New York: Springer International Publishing.
  4. See Chapter 6 for a detailed description of the ICJ’s activities and powers.
  5. In Chapter 11 such artificially constructed boundaries are referred to as ontologically subjective; they are contracted against ontologically objective concepts such as the abovementioned ‘scientific truths’.
  6. Note: This quote is often improperly cited to Alexander Hamilton. The accurate citation is Philipps, Wendell. (1894). Speeches, Lectures, and Letters. Volume 1. Boston: Lee and Shepard. For a thorough exploration of the theory of justice, see also John Rawls, “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions” in Rawls, John. (1971). The Theory of Justice. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Cambridge University.
  7. Hegel concludes §216, “It is patent to the most idle reflection that the most excellent, noble, and beautiful can be conceived of as still more excellent, noble, and beautiful. A large old tree branches more and more without becoming a new tree in the process; it would be folly, however, not to plant a new tree for the reason that it was destined in time to have new branches.” (Hegel, 1991, p. 214).


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