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Towards a Global Pact for Environment: From a Hard Law Instrument to a Soft Law Tool ?



In nowadays troubled global scenario, characterised by the rise of bilateral agreements and nationalist trends, one area of interest for international law should maintain a multilateral architecture: environmental concerns are global public goods, affecting every country in the world. Their solution must be agreed upon at a multilateral level to be effective and operative. For this reason, the UN General Assembly adopted, in May 2018, a resolution entitled Towards a Global Pact for the Environment. This resolution requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to draft a technical and evidence-based report identifying and assessing gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments, which was released at the end of November 2018. An established Ad hoc open ended working group, under the auspices of the General Assembly, analysed this report, discussing possible options to address the highlighted shortcomings and gaps. This working group delivered its recommendations in May 2019 opting for a political declaration concerning the environment, to be adopted in 2022 during a UN high level meeting for the fiftieth anniversary of the Stockholm Conference.

This paper will highlight the Global Pact process, from its draft to the discussions of the Ad hoc working group and its recommendations, as well as the Secretary-General’s (SG) report on gaps in international environmental law. After analysing the debate that spread in doctrine over the need for a Pact, attention will be given to the missed opportunity to conclude an overarching multilateral treaty concerning international environmental principles and to the role a soft law document could nevertheless play in the field.


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