The Principle of Sustainable Development

Barral, Virginie. 2018. The Principle of Sustainable Development. In: Ludwig Krämer and Emanuela Orlando, eds. Principles of Environmental Law. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 103-114. ISBN 9781785365652 [Book Section]

Barral--draft.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (361kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The rise of sustainable development as a central theme of modern international legal discourse has occurred over an extraordinarily compact period of twenty to thirty years at the end of the 20th century, and it is to this day undeniably dominating legal thinking in the fields of economic, social and environmental relations. Yet, the principle’s broad and evasive texture carries with it significant hesitation as to its meaning, contents and legal implications. Such hesitation is first manifest in the multiplicity of terms associated with the expression, sometimes as a principle, but often as a concept, an objective, a framework or even a discourse or paradigm. It is also apparent in the contrasting opinions relating to its definition and constitutive elements. Arguably however, the variability of the standards attached to sustainable development is a necessary consequence of the evolving nature of the principle and do not prohibit the identification of the inherent constitutive elements of the notion. In addition, sustainable development’s wide dissemination in international law is testimony to its legal nature. Sustainable development ultimately operates both as a principle of interpretation to assist the resolution of conflicts of norms or of interest in the judicial process, and as an objective that international subjects must strive to achieve.

Item Type:

Book Section


Principle, concept, objective of sustainable development, intra-generational equity, intergenerational equity, integration, principle of conciliation or conflict resolution, obligation of means

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



July 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Aug 2019 14:42

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2021 02:26


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)