Sustainable Development and International law: Fragmentation, disconnects and the challenge of international policy coherence in meeting the SDGs

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.
Public international law norms are relevant to a wide range of the sustainable development goals. Yet there is a systemic failure to connect the two spheres and a dearth of literature on the interaction between public international law and the policy and political frameworks that underpin development. There are moreover few entry points in development policy for the concrete integration of binding international law norms, and the uptake of such norms in development policy, frameworks and programming is uneven at best. The disconnect between public international law and development frameworks can be viewed as yet another example of the fragmentation of international law exemplifying the challenge of international policy coherence: the same countries are parties to core international treaties and participants in international development (whether as donors or partners) and yet engage in development activities without a systematic assessment of which international norms apply even in sectors where international treaties clearly govern. Similarly, the SDGs are often viewed in isolation and in a normative and legal vacuum. The 2030 Agenda is typically discussed in terms of its goals, targets and indicators – without any effective engagement with international law norms. This session will debate the nexus between the SDGs and international law and will consider the emergence of sustainable development as a norm post-Rio Declaration. The panel will explore in concrete terms the fundamental role of international law in the attainment of the SDGs by 2030 and will assess the role of existing legal regimes (as they currently exist or as they may be bolstered or reformed) or whether new legal regimes need to be established. It will explore the proposition that a more systematic and coherent approach should be adopted in development policy and practice to promote the respect of international law in development activities, to mitigate human rights risk and to and ensure a more cohesive and less fragmented approach to international law in development.

Rajat Khosla, Human Rights Adviser to the World Health Organization
Robert McCorquodale, University of Nottingham School of Law (Moderator)
Victor Mosoti, World Bank Group

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)