Advisory Opinion on the Environment and Human Rights
American Journal of International Law
On November 15, 2017, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Court) rendered a historic advisory opinion (Advisory Opinion) on the relationship between human rights and the environment. The opinion was a response to a request from Colombia regarding extraterritorial jurisdiction of state parties to the American Convention, in particular their obligations under the rights to life and personal integrity, arising from the construction and operation of large-scale infrastructure projects in the
... re projects in the Greater Caribbean region. Colombia's concern was that, due to their dimensions and permanence, such projects could cause significant environmental harm, that goes beyond national borders, and, as a consequence, adversely affect the inhabitants of the whole region and the enjoyment of their rights under the Convention (para. 2). One of the most important aspects of the Advisory Opinion is the Court's finding that in relation to large-scale transboundary infrastructure projects, state parties to the Convention can exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction under certain circumstances and thus be responsible for the human rights of the people in the affected area. Another significant finding of the Court is that Article 26 of the American Convention, which provides for the progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights, includes an autonomous right to a healthy environment—a right fundamental for the existence of humankind. Finally, the Court directly linked the rights to life and personal integrity with general principles of international environmental under a due diligence obligation. The Court's extensive use of international environmental law instruments, case law, and reasoning could pave the way for greater interconnection and integration between human rights and international environment law obligations.