Global Commons Law Project


The International Law of the Commons: Towards a Global Constitutional Framework

The management of the global commons is a fundamental challenge for humankind. Commons areas, such as the oceans, atmosphere and the Antarctic, are critical elements for the maintenance of a liveable and prosperous planet. The law and governance of the global commons is under increasing and novel pressures flowing from massive environmental change, as well new actors and new technologies. Among the commons issues that are currently being debated by the international community are the negotiation of a new treaty on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, the preparation of draft articles on the protection of the atmosphere, where the current legal status of the atmosphere, and the regulation of solar geoengineering are critical considerations, and the development of new regulations by the International Seabed Authority governing responsible management of common mineral resources.

The purpose of this project is to examine the question of whether there is an emerging, distinct international law of the global commons, by which we mean the law governing those areas and resources that are beyond the territorial jurisdiction of any one state. In approaching this question, we intend to draw on the concepts, practices and discourses of global constitutionalism, which brings to the forefront a number of questions that are of particular importance to current debates respecting the international law of the global commons, such as the degree of normative coherence across commons regimes, the hierarchical structure of norms, an interest in process values, such as transparency and participation, as well as a broader understanding of international law that emphasizes global citizenship and solidarity.

Project funding: This project is funded by a five year SSHRC Insight Grant (2017-2021).

Project Lead - Neil Craik, University of Waterloo

Co-applicant – Anna-Maria Hubert, University of Calgary Law School

Collaborators - Timiebi  Aganaba, Centre for International Governance Innovation