UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The north-south dimension of health in the international law of environment and sustainable development Cordeiro, Jamil


As a basic pillar of any society, human health represents the ultimate value to be pursued by the global community on its path to sustainable development. Since 1992, however, when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ("the Earth Summit") took place in Rio de Janeiro, the multilateral agenda on environment and development seems to be primarily interested in accommodating the economic needs of the North. In spite of an apparent concern with human health, the supporting rationale for the negotiation of legal solutions in both fields appears to privilege other concerns, particularly those related to the protection of well-established markets and the creation of new ones. This is not a problem unique to law, but rather reflects a phenomenon addressed by scholars in other fields, showing that indeed there is still a missing link between the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. In this thesis, support is sought in the work of Antonio Gramsci in order to demonstrate that international norms have been produced as a means of reaffirming a pattern of domination by the North over the South. The failure to incorporate a broader "concept of health" in key legal regimes, which is analyzed here in terms of Gramsci's ideas of superstructure and caesarism, provides evidence that sustainable development remains unlikely to be achieved. This thesis argues that the manner in which health has been approached in legal discussions about environment and development is usually vague, limited or misleading. If this continues, any efforts to achieve sustainable development will prove to be ineffective, immoral and with possibly irreversible consequences for humankind.

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