The ‘Rights’ Way to Democratize the Science–Policy Interface in International Environmental Law? A Reply to Anna-Maria Hubert
Source TitleEuropean Journal of International law
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
University of Melbourne Author/sPeel, Jacqueline
AffiliationMelbourne Law School
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsPeel, J. (2020). The ‘Rights’ Way to Democratize the Science–Policy Interface in International Environmental Law? A Reply to Anna-Maria Hubert. European Journal of International law, 31 (2), pp.657-664. https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chaa042.
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-10-01
Science is widely regarded as being necessary for effective international environmental decision-making and risk assessment processes. However, it is equally well recognized that uncertainties or the complexity of phenomena under study mean that science may only offer partial knowledge for environmental problems in many circumstances. ‘Democratization’ of science is often proposed as a solution to this dilemma. This may involve incorporating a wider spectrum of expert views and public inputs in risk assessments of new technologies, public participation in science through so-called ‘citizen science’ initiatives or the application of the precautionary principle. This reply reviews these approaches and contrasts them with another tantalizing possibility offered by Anna-Maria Hubert’s article; a human rights-based approach drawing on the ‘oft-neglected’ right to science. It assesses the extent to which a rights-based approach, utilizing the right to science, offers a way to bridge the gap between science and democracy in contested international environmental legal decision-making processes. While it concludes that there are important potential benefits to the application of the right to science in international environmental law, it is far from clear that it provides a panacea given the limitations on the right expressed in the international human rights instruments in which it is found, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Instead, the right to science can be seen as placing another thumb on the scales – alongside the precautionary and participatory approaches – in favour of enabling broader, more democratically accountable decision-making in cases of uncertain science and contested environmental risks.
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