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Transnational Environmental Law and Grass-Root Initiatives: The Case of the Latin American Water Tribunal

  • Belén Olmos Giupponi (a1)


This article analyzes the role played by the Latin American Water Tribunal (Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua – TRAGUA) (LAWT) in the resolution of environmental disputes over water resources. Since its inception in 1998, the LAWT has emerged as a non-governmental body with a multidisciplinary composition and a mandate based on both formal and informal sources of law, which holds public hearings in order to address water-related complaints. This article explores whether (and the ways in which) the LAWT is contributing to the resolution of environmental disputes concerning water resources. The main underlying thesis is that, whereas the traditional model for interstate dispute settlement offers only limited possibilities of redress to non-state actors (mainly individuals and groups), the LAWT provides them with the opportunity to present their demands before an environmental justice forum.



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I would like to thank Andrew Byrnes and Gabrielle Simm (School of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney (Australia)) for their insightful comments on a previous version of this article, presented at the Workshop on Peoples’ Tribunals held at the Lelio Basso Foundation in Sept. 2013 in Rome (Italy). I am grateful to Sergio Costa (Institute of Latin American Studies, Free University, Berlin (Germany)) for hosting me as a visiting scholar of the Excellence Research Network exploring inequalities in Latin America (DesiguALdades) between June and Aug. 2014 and for his comments on the final version of the article. Finally, I would like to thank Javier Bogantes of the LAWT, who provided access to documents and materials in order to complete the analysis of the various cases. All errors, of course, remain mine.



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1 See Wessel, R.A., ‘Informal International Law-Making as a New Form of World Legislation?’ (2011) 8 International Organizations Law Review, pp. 253265. See further Boyle, A. & Chinkin, C., The Making of International Law (Oxford University Press, 2007).

2 A brief description of complaints submitted is available in Spanish on the LAWT website, available at:

3 The LAWT (also known as TRAGUA, its acronym in Spanish) was established in 1998 and initially the main geographical area covered by its activities was Central America. For this reason the Tribunal was originally known as the Central American Water Tribunal and was subsequently renamed the Latin American Water Tribunal.

4 Geneva (Switzerland), 27 June 1989, in force 5 Sept. 1991, available at:

5 New York, NY (US), 13 Sept. 2007, available at:

6 LAWT, ‘Declaración Latinoamericana del Agua’ (‘Latin American Water Declaration’) (1998), available at:

7 See generally Warning, M.J., Transnational Public Governance: Networks, Law and Legitimacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

8 See Anton, D. & Shelton, D., Environmental Protection and Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

9 Stockholm (Sweden), 16 June 1972, available at: The first two principles of the Stockholm Declaration link human rights and the environment.

10 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 3–14 June 1992, available at:

11 ibid.

12 See generally Boyle, A. & Harrison, J., ‘Judicial Settlement of International Environmental Disputes: Current Problems’ (2013) 4(2) Journal of International Dispute Settlement, pp. 245276; Stephens, T., International Courts and Environmental Protection (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 345365.

13 Southern Bluefin Tuna Cases (Provisional Measures), ITLOS Nos. 3 and 4 (1999); MOX Plant Case (Provisional Measures), ITLOS No. 10 (2001).

14 WTO, United States Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products (Shrimp Turtle Case), 12 Oct. 1998, WT/DS58/AB/R.

15 See ECtHR, 9 Dec. 1994, López Ostra v. Spain, appl. no. 16798/90, [1994] Series A, No. 303-C, and ECtHR, 19 Feb. 1998, Guerra & Others v. Italy, appl. no. 14967/89, Reports 1998-I.

16 E.g. The Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua, Judgment of 31 Aug. 2001, IACtHR, (Ser. C) No. 79 (2001); Metropolitan Nature Reserve v. Panama, Case 11.533, 22 Oct. 2003, Report No. 88/03, IACtHR, OEA/SerL/V/II.118 Doc. 70 Rev. 2 at 524 (2003).

17 African Commission on Human and People’s Rights v. Kenya, Application No. 006/2012, 12 July 2012; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AChPR), Banjul (Gambia), 27 June 1981, in force 21 Oct. 1986, available at:, Art. 24, Right to a General Satisfactory Environment.

18 Schall, Ch., ‘Public Interest Litigation Concerning Environmental Matters before Human Rights Courts: A Promising Future Concept?’ (2008) 20(3) Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 417453, at 419.

19 UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), Aarhus (Denmark), 25 Jun. 1998, in force 30 Oct. 2001, available at:

20 The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 3 Jan. 1976, available at:, Art. 20, underlines the obligation of each party ‘to take steps … to guarantee the maximum of its available resources with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the rights recognised in the Present Covenant’.

21 CESCR, General Comment No. 15 (2002), Economic and Social Council, E/C.12/2002/11, 20 Jan. 2003, available at:

22 Ibid., at p. 2

24 This resolution was backed by the majority of UN Member States; it was adopted by 122 votes in favour, none against and 41 abstentions.

25 Human Rights Council, 12 Oct. 2011, available at:

26 Weiss, E. Brown, ‘The Coming Water Crisis: A Common Concern of Humankind’ (2012) 1(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 153168.

27 UN Human Development Report 2006, ‘Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis’ (UNHDR 2006), United Nations Development Programme, 2006, available at:

28 Ibid., at p. 27.

29 E. Chapple & F. Leitch, ‘The Right to Water: Does it Exist and is it Justiciable Content?’, Paper presented at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Law, Environmental Law Student Society Symposium, 28 May 2011, available at: See also Harvard Law Review Association, ‘What Price for the Priceless?: Implementing the Justiciability of the Right to Water’ (2007) 120(4) Harvard Law Review, pp. 10671088. See also Pejan, R., ‘The Right to Water: The Road to Justiciability’ (2004) 36 George Washington International Law Review, pp. 11811197.

30 These mechanisms provide a rapid defence of the human right at stake. In American doctrine and in common law in general, they are equivalent to injunctions. In Latin America these injunctions have names such as acción de tutela and recurso o acción de amparo.

31 Marauhn, Th., ‘Changing Role of the State’, in D. Bodansky, J. Brunnée & E. Hey (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 727748, at 735.

32 See Harvard Law Review Association, n. 29 above, at p. 1080.

33 See Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (IPCC, 2014), available at:

34 LAWT, ‘Situación Hídrica en América Latina’, 2011, available at:; UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ‘Inequality in Access to Water and Sanitation’, in Vital Water Graphics – An Overview of the State of the World’s Fresh and Marine Waters (UNEP, 2008), available at:

35 UNHDR 2006, n. 27 above, at p. 51.

36 For millions of households the high price of water tariffs reduces the already scarce economic resources. There is evidence that ‘the poorest 20% of households in Argentina, El Salvador, Jamaica and Nicaragua allocate more than 10% of their spending to water’ and ‘about half of these households live below the $1 a day threshold for extreme poverty’: Ibid., at p. 51.

37 For instance, the Report highlights that in Bolivia ‘the average rate of access to piped water is 49% for indigenous language speakers and 80% for non-indigenous language speakers’: Ibid., at p. 54.

38 There are disadvantaged areas in different countries in which the measures taken to reduce the disparities have had limited positive impact. The Report mentions the case of Mexico, in which ‘more than 90% of the population is connected to a safe water source and two-thirds of households are connected to a sewer. But coverage drops sharply from more developed urban areas and more prosperous northern states through smaller towns, to more remote rural areas and the poverty-belt states of the south’: Ibid.

39 Flint, H., ‘Latin American Rivers among Most Polluted in the World, Says New Study’, The Telegraph, 8 Jan. 2014, available at:

40 World Water Council (Comisión Nacional del Agua), 4th World Water Forum, ‘Water Problems in Latin America’, 2004, available at:

41 According to the European Environment Agency, water stress ‘occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use. Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity (aquifer over-exploitation, dry rivers, etc.) and quality (eutrophication, organic matter pollution, saline intrusion, etc.)’: Glossary of Terms, European Environment Agency, 2014, available at:

42 IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (IPCC, 2007), available at:

43 Bakker, K., ‘The “Commons” Versus the “Commodity”: Alter-globalization, Anti-privatization and the Human Right to Water in the Global South’ (2007) 39 Antipode, pp. 430455. On water markets see especially Weiss, E. Brown, de Chazournes, L. Boisson & Bernasconi-Osterwalder, N. (eds), Fresh Water and International Economic Law (Oxford University Press, 2005).

44 Aguas del Tunari SA v. Republic of Bolivia, ICSID Case No. ARB/02/3 (Decision on Respondent’s Objections to Jurisdiction), 21 Oct 2005, available at:

45 After the arbitration tribunal issued a decision on jurisdiction, the dispute was settled, and the case was ‘discontinued’.

46 See Giupponi, M.B. Olmos, ‘Inequality and Access to Water in Latin America: Implementing the Right to Water in Argentina’ (2014) 3 Rethinking Development and Inequality, pp. 87109, at 95. See also, in general, Romano, C., ‘International Dispute Settlement’, in Bodansky, Brunnée & Hey, n. 31 above, pp. 10361056.

47 The hydroelectric project by Enel/Endesa in the region of Panguipulli (Chile) affects not only water rights but also Mapuche territories and sacred sites.

48 The increase in the water tariffs in Cochabamba in 2000 after the privatization of the water supply resulted in social turmoil: see ‘Water War in Bolivia’, The Economist, 10 Feb. 2000, available at:

49 During the economic crisis, many users in Argentina could not afford to pay the water tariffs; this led to various controversial cases, as seen in Section 4 below.

50 The dam project in the Baba river (Ecuador), which threatened access to water by communities living in the area, was finally stopped after years of struggle: see FIAN International, ‘Discontinuation of Dam Project in Ecuador’, 2007, available at:

51 Olmos Giupponi, n. 46 above, at p. 95.

52 Backhouse, M., Melo, J. Baquero & Costa, S., ‘Between Rights and Power Asymmetries: Contemporary Struggles for Land in Brazil and Colombia’ (2013),, Working Paper Series No. 41, pp. 12, available at:

53 Since its inception, the LAWT has covered the protection of water resources in Central America.

54 Maganda, C., ‘The Latin American Water Tribunal and the Need for Public Spaces for Social Participation in Water Governance’, in J. Feyen, K. Shannon & M. Neville (eds), Water and Urban Development Paradigms: Towards an Integration of Engineering, Design and Management Approaches (CRC Press, 2009), pp. 687692, at 688.

55 There is also the possibility to submit a complaint online at:

56 LAWT Statute, a summary of which can be found at:

57 Bogantes, J. & Muiser, J., Estrategias erróneas y la vulneración de los sistemas hídricos en América Latina (LAWT, 2011), p. 86. The LAWT will examine the case and determine whether the complaint is well grounded.

58 According to the LAWT only two cases have been characterized as ‘multinational’: one involves water privatization in Colombia and the other concerns a transboundary river between Chile and Argentina: Bogantes, J., ‘Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua Una alternativa de justicia’, Paper presented at the Workshop on People‘s Tribunals, Rome (Italy), Sept. 2013, pp. 2829 (original in Spanish, author’s translation).

59 Rio Declaration. n. 10 above. According to the precautionary principle, every complaint must be supported by adequate scientific evidence that there is potential environmental damage or risk for water resources.

60 Weaver, M.A., ‘El Agua No Se Vende: Water is Not for Sale! The Latin American Water Tribunal as a Model for Advancing Access to Water’ (2011) 11(3) Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal, pp. 519545, at 526.

61 Ibid.

62 The public hearings that have occurred so far are as follows: Costa Rica, 2000; Costa Rica, 2004; Mexico, 2006; Guadalajara (Mexico) 2007; Guatemala, 2008; Istanbul (Turkey), 2009; and Argentina, 2012. Hearings may also take place in one country to hear only cases arising in that specific jurisdiction, e.g., the public hearing in San Carlos, in the northern part of Costa Rica (Feb. 2004), and the public hearing that took place in Managua (Nicaragua) (June 2004).

63 LAWT Statute, n. 56 above.

64 LAWT, ‘Procedural Rules’: see LAWT, ‘Presentación Institucional’, 2014, available at:

65 The current list of different scholars and practitioners is available via the LAWT, ibid.

66 This list is merely illustrative; other professions are also represented in the Scientific and Technical Commission: ibid.

67 As of Feb. 2015, the Tribunal had held 7 public hearings: see

68 In parallel with the tasks performed by the LAWT in the admission of complaints, it organizes workshops and other activities to further disseminate information about water-related environmental problems in the region.

69 LAWT, ‘Presentación Institucional’, n. 64 above.

70 Rojas, L.A. Suarez, ‘La Comunidad de Carhuancho y Sus Avatares por el Agua: Una Mirada al Bien Común y Las Desigualdades Persistentes en la Sierra Central, Peru’ (2009) 9(2) Global Jurist, pp. 122, at 19.

71 Escobar, A., ‘Difference and Conflict in the Struggle over Natural Resources: A Political Ecology Framework’ (2006) 49(3) Development, pp. 613. Also Muradian, R., Folchi, M. & Martinez-Alier, J., ‘“Remoteness” and Environmental Conflicts: Some Insights from the Political Ecology and Economic Geography of Copper’ (2004) 7(3) International Journal of Sustainable Development, pp. 120.

72 Dorsey, M., ‘Environmental (In) justice: Race, Poverty and Environment’ (1998) 22 The Legal Studies Forum, pp. 501518, at 501. ‘Environmental racism’ is defined as the discrimination (based on racial or ethnic considerations) in environmental policy making.

73 Davidson-Harden, A., ‘Latin American Water Tribunal: Using National and International Law to Form a Basis of Water Ethics’, in Local Control and Management of our Water Commons: Stories of Rising to the Challenge (The Council of Canadians, 2008), p. 53, available at:

74 On the interface between the human rights and the environmental regimes see, e.g., Anand, P.B., ‘Right to Water and Access to Water: An Assessment’ (2007) 19 Journal of International Development, pp. 511526; and Pejan, n. 29 above, at p. 1182. More generally, see Sands, P.H., Principles of International Environmental Law, 2nd edn (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 294307, at 297; Birnie, P., Boyle, A. & Redgwell, C., International Law and the Environment (Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 284285.

75 CESCR, General Comment No. 15, n. 21 above; UNGA Resolution A/RES/64/292, of 28 July 2010, on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, available at:; see also UNGA A/64/L.63/Rev.1, n. 23 above.

76 The Declaration was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Latin American and the Caribbean States, during the Second Summit of the CELAC, Havana (Cuba), 28–29 Jan. 2014, available at:

77 The EU-wide legislative initiative ‘Right2Water’ submitted under the Lisbon Treaty (Treaty on European Union, Lisbon (Portugal), 13 Dec. 2007, in force 1 Dec. 2009, available at: text) was successful in obtaining more than 1.8 million signatures. Consequently, the European Commission issued its Communication on the European Citizens’ Initiative, ‘Water and Sanitation are a Human Right! Water is a Public Good, not a Commodity!’, COM(2014)177 final, 19 Mar. 2014, reflecting EU past and current actions concerning the human right to water, available at:

78 Ibid. See also E. Brown Weiss, The Evolution of International Water Law, Recueil des Cours 2007, VI, vol. 331 (Académie de Droit International de la Haye/Martinus Nijhoff, 2007), p. 326.

79 Constitution of Bolivia (2009), ‘Article 16.I. Everyone has the right to water…’, Center for Latin American Studies, Political Database of the Americas, University of Georgetown, 5 July 2011, available at:; Constitution of Ecuador (2008), ‘Article 12. The human right to water is essential and cannot be waived. Water constitutes a national strategic asset for use by the public and it is unalienable, not subject to a statute of limitations, immune from seizure and essential for life’, Center for Latin American Studies, Political Database of the Americas, University of Georgetown, 31 Jan. 2011, available at:; Constitution of Uruguay (2004), ‘Article 47. … water is an essential resource for life … access to water and sanitation are human rights’ (original in Spanish, author‘s translation), Center for Latin American Studies, Political Database of the Americas, University of Georgetown, 17 Aug. 2005, available at:

80 Olmos Giupponi, M.B. & Paz, M.C., ‘El Derecho al Agua, El Derecho al Agua en la Jurisprudencia Argentina y de la Corte Constitucional Colombiana’ (2012) Diario Juridico El Derecho, pp. 15, Buenos Aires (Argentina).

81 LAWT, ‘Tratados y Declaraciones’ (‘Treaties and Declarations’), 2014, available at: (in Spanish).

82 Parriciatu, M. & Sindico, F., ‘Contours of an Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Water in Latin America under International Law’ (2012) 1 International Human Rights Law Review, pp. 211236.

83 Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 528.

84 Ibid., at p. 529.

85 Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1054.

86 Sands, P., ‘Sustainable Development: Treaty, Custom and the Cross-Fertilization of International Law’, in A. Boyle & D. Freestone (eds), International Law and Sustainable Development (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 3960, at 42.

87 Boyle & Harrison, n. 12 above, at p. 258.

88 In more detail, Romano refers to the fragmentation at both the domestic and the international levels and different competing and parallel legal regimes: trade and investment disputes; environmental disputes and protection of human rights: Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1055.

89 Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1053.

90 The PCA’s Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to the Environment and/or Natural Resources were adopted in 2001; the rules seek to address the principal lacunae in environmental dispute resolution identified by the working group; the Optional Rules for Conciliation of Disputes Relating to the Environment and/or Natural Resources were adopted in 2002: PCA, ‘Environmental Dispute Resolution’, 2009, available at:

91 In 1993, the ICJ, pursuant to Art. 26(1) of the Statute of the ICJ (annexed to the Charter of the UN, San Francisco, CA (US), 26 June 1945, in force 24 Oct. 1945), available at:, created a Chamber for Environmental Matters, which was periodically reconstituted until 2006. In the Chamber‘s 13 years of existence, however, no state ever requested a case to be dealt with by it. Consequently, the Court decided in 2006 not to hold elections for a Bench for the said Chamber: ICJ, ‘Chambers and Committees’, 2014, available at:

92 Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1054.

93 Birnie, Boyle & Redgwell, n. 74 above, at pp. 250–67.

94 Bodansky, D., ‘Is There an International Environmental Constitution?’ (2009) 16 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, pp. 565584, at 576.

95 The International Water Tribunal met in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), 3–8 Oct. 1983, to examine the cases of pollution in the Rhine, the North Sea and the Wadden Sea.

96 See Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 524. Second International Water Tribunal organized in 1992 in Amsterdam (the Netherlands): Declaration of Amsterdam, adopted by the Second Water Tribunal (the Netherlands) on 27 June 1991. Dejeant-Pons, M. & Pallemaerts, M., Human Rights and the Environment (Council of Europe Publishing, 2002), pp. 104107, at 105.

97 See Sette-Camara, J., ‘Pollution of International Rivers’, Recueil des Cours 1984, (Académie de Droit International de la Haye/Martinus Nijhoff, 1985), p. 146.

98 Ibid., at p. 147.

99 The Valencia Water Court (Tribunal de las Aguas de Valencia) represents one of the oldest models of justice that has survived until now. It was recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2009; further information is available at:

100 LAWT, ‘Precedents’, available at: See Caubet, C.G., ‘O Tribunal Da Água’ (1994) 18 GEOSUL, pp. 7186.

101 Caubet, ibid., at p. 85.

102 See LAWT, ‘Quiénes-Somos’ (‘Who We Are’), available at:

103 These tribunals have been established since the 1960s, although international law scholars have devoted little attention to their contribution so far; but see Brynes, A. & Simm, G., ‘People‘s Tribunal, International Law and the Use of Force’ (2013) 36(2) University of New South Wales Law Journal, pp. 711744, at 725, available at:

104 Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 527.

105 LAWT, ‘Quiénes-Somos’, above n. 102.

106 Ibid.; Spanish version reads: ‘Seguridad ecológica. Educación y sensibilización para la protección de los sistemas hídricos. Seguridad hídrica y justo gobierno por el agua’.

107 Kotzé, L.J., ‘Arguing Global Environmental Constitutionalism’ (2012) 1(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 199233, at 202–3.

108 Maganda, n. 54 above, at p. 689.

109 LAWT Statute, n. 56 above; ‘Organisation’ in ‘Presentación Institucional’, n. 64 above (in Spanish, Secretariat (Equipo de Gestión); Scientific and Technical Commission (Comisión Científico-Técnica); and jury (jurado, also known as ‘tribunal’).

110 Bogantes, n. 58 above, at p. 31 (original in Spanish, author‘s translation). Note that the LAWT Secretariat has its headquarters in San José (Costa Rica).

111 LAWT, ‘Presentación Institucional’, n. 64 above. The Tribunal‘s activities are funded by various international cooperation agencies.

112 LAWT Statute, n. 56 above; ‘Organisation’ in ‘Presentación Institucional’, n. 64 above.

113 For instance, the case regarding the Atuel basin in Argentina involving two provinces (regions): Mendoza and La Pampa: see Water Lex, ‘Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua, Fundación Chadileuvú c/ Estado Nacional Argentino y Provincia de Mendoza’, in The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in Courts Worldwide: A Selection of National, Regional and International Case Law (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, 2014), pp. 281–3.

114 These parties are civil society, basin authorities and institutions in charge of water governance.

115 The OLCA has contributed towards bringing cases to the LAWT and monitoring compliance with the verdicts.

116 The 5th World Water Forum (WWF) took place in Mar. 2009 in Istanbul (Turkey): see WWF Final Report, available at:

117 LAWT, ‘Public Hearing Held in Istanbul, Turkey’, available at: The following cases were presented: Konaktepe Dam and Konaktepe I and II Hydropower Plants in the Munzur Valley, case report, 2009, available at:; Yusufeli Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant Project in the Çoruh Valley, case report, 2009, available at:; and Ilisu Dam, activities report, 2009, available at: In addition, two cases from Latin America were tried: Petition – Mexico’s Social and Environmental Deterioration, case report, 2009, available at:; and Madeira River Hydroelectric Dams, Amazon Forest, State of Rondonia, Brazil, case report, 2009, available at:

118 On the role of corporations in compliance with environmental law see generally Muchlinski, P., Multinational Enterprises and the Law (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 537574, at 546; see also Özen, S. & Küskü, F., ‘Corporate Environmental Citizenship – Variation in Developing Countries: An Institutional Framework’ (2009) 89(2) Journal of Business Ethics, pp. 297313, at 302.

119 LAWT Statute, n. 56 above; Bogantes & Muiser, n. 57 above, at pp. 88–93.

120 Bogantes, n. 58 above, at p. 23 (original in Spanish, author’s translation).

121 Ibid., at p. 25.

122 However, note that in Istanbul, the LAWT examined cases of water pollution and degradation affecting other regions.

123 LAWT, ‘Presentación Institucional’, n. 64 above.

124 LAWT, ‘Fundamentos Élico Jurídicos’, available at:, and ‘Presentación Institutional’, n. 64 above; Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 525; Maganda, n. 54 above, at p. 688.

125 Bodansky, D., ‘The Legitimacy of International Governance: A Coming Challenge for International Environmental Law?’ (1999) 93(3) American Journal of International Law, pp. 596624, at 603. See Nickel, J. & Magraw, D., ‘Philosophical Issues in International Environmental Law’, in S. Besson & J. Tasioulas (eds), The Philosophy of International Law (Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 453471, at 454; Crisp, R., ‘Ethics and International Environmental Law’, in Besson & Tasioulas, ibid., pp. 473490, at 474.

126 Bernstein, S., ‘Legitimacy in Global Environmental Governance’ (2004–05) 1 Journal of International Law & International Relations, pp. 139166, at 142.

127 LAWT, ‘Proceedings’, in ‘Presentación Institutional’, n. 64 above. Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 532.

128 Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1053.

129 LAWT, ‘Manual de Procedimientos’ (‘Procedural Rules’), in ‘Presentación Institutional’, n. 64 above; J.M. Borero Navia & J. Bogantes Diaz, Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua: Fundamentos eticos y jurídicos (LAWT, 2012), available at:

130 LAWT, ‘Quiénes-Somos’, n. 102 above (Spanish version reads: ‘Justicia alternativa ante la crisis de legalidad imperante’).

131 Cf. Backhouse, Baquero Melo & Costa, n. 52 above, at pp. 4–5.

132 Fischer-Lescano, A., ‘Ex Facto Ius Oritur: Procesos de Escándalo y el Derecho Mundial Emergente’ (2007) 30 Doxa, Cuadernos de Filosofía del Derecho, pp. 435450; Fischer-Lescano has put forward this argument with regard to the transitional process in Argentina. See also, generally, Krisch, N., Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralistic Structure of Post-National Law (Oxford University Press, 2010).

133 Fischer-Lescano, ibid., at p. 435.

134 LAWT, ‘Audiencias y Casos’ (‘Hearings and Cases’), available at:

135 Ibid.

136 Various initiatives have been put forward by NGOs in order to map relevant environmental conflicts concerning land, air and water resources, and their livelihoods which are at risk of being affected by damaging environmental impacts: see, e.g., Global Atlas of Environmental Conflicts, available at:; Environmental Justice Atlas, available at:

137 See generally Bowen, F., ‘Environmental Visibility: A Trigger of Green Organizational Response?’ (2000) 9(2) Business Strategy and the Environment, pp. 92107; Bowen, F., After Greenwashing: Symbolic Corporate Environmentalism and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

138 Gould, K., ‘Pollution and Perception: Social Visibility and Local Environmental Mobilization’ (1993) 16(2) Qualitative Sociology, pp. 157178, at 158.

139 On the role of NGOs in environmental compliance see Tarlock, A.D., ‘Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Development of International Environmental Law’ (1992), 68 Chicago-Kent Law Review, pp. 6176, at 63.

140 Bodansky, D., The Art and Craft of International Environmental Law (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 234.

141 Brynes & Simm, n. 103 above, at p. 713. Conclusions of the Seminar on Peoples’ Tribunals and International Law, Lelio Basso Foundation, Rome (Italy), Sept. 2013, available at:

142 Lazarus, R., ‘Fairness in Environmental Law’ (1997) 27 Environmental Law, pp. 705740, at 714.

143 The members of the Commission are appointed from a list of experts by the Secretariat on the basis of their respective experience; they receive no payment for the tasks performed.

144 Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 523.

145 Various international instruments deal with sustainable development. These include the Brundtland Report adopted in the 1980s (UN, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, 20 Mar. 1987, available at:; the Rio Declaration in the 1990s (n. 10 above); and the 2002 Declaration of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg (South Africa), 26 Aug. to 4 Sept. 2002, available at: on how the unsustainable practices of wealthy nations may impact upon poorer countries. Scholars have addressed environmental inequalities, their implications and the linkages between poverty on the one hand, and environmental degradation and economic policies on the other: see Backhouse, Baquero Melo & Costa, n. 52 above, at p. 4. There is also a vast literature on the inequality of access to environmental ‘goods’ (i.e. healthy living conditions) and the inequitable impacts of environmental ‘bads’ (i.e. pollution): see Adebowale, M., ‘Towards a Socially Inclusive Sustainable Development Research Agenda’, in M. Eames & M. Adebowale (eds), Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion: Towards an Integrated Approach to Research (Policy Studies Institute, 2002).

146 Romano, n. 46 above, at p. 1056.

147 Kulick, A., Global Public Interest in International Investment Law (Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 225267.

148 San Antonio, TX (US), 17 Dec. 1992, in force 1 Jan. 1994, available at:

149 Vinuales, J., ‘Access to Water in Foreign Investment Disputes’ (2009) 21(4) Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, pp. 733759.

150 ‘The Secret Trade Courts’, The New York Times, 7 Sept. 2004, available at:

151 McDougall, A. de Lotbinière & Santens, A., ‘ICSID Tribunals Apply New Rules on Amicus Curiae’ (2007) 22(2) Mealey‘s International Arbitration Report, pp. 111.

152 The World Bank Inspection Panels were created in 1993: see S. Herz & A. Perrault, ‘Bringing Human Rights Claims to the World Bank Inspection Panel’, Center for International Environmental Law, 2009, available at:

153 See, in general, Ulate, E., ‘La tutela medioambiental en el Sistema Interamericano de Protección de los Derechos Humanos’, in B. Olmos Giupponi (ed.), Medio ambiente, Cambio Climatico y Derechos Humanos (Dike, 2011), pp. 7589.

154 This is, e.g., the case before the LAWT regarding the transfer of water from the region of the Cutzamala System to the Valley of Mexico basin (United Mexican States): Avila-García, P., ‘Water Conflicts and Human Rights in Indigenous Territories of Latin America’, in A. Garrido & M. Schechter (eds), Water for the Americas: Challenges and Opportunities (Routlege, 2014), pp. 177205.

155 Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC), ‘The Latin American Water Tribunal Puts “Water Polluters on Trial”’, Latin America Week, 15 Apr. 2007, p. 16, available at:

156 Weaver, n. 60 above, at p. 523.

157 Ibid., at p. 528.

158 Maganda, n. 54 above, at p. 689.

159 Bogantes, n. 58 above, at p. 24.

160 See LAWT, ‘Statistics’, in Bogantes & Muiser, n. 57 above, at pp. 86–7.

161 Landa, O. Rosas, ‘La lucha legal por la justicia hídrica: México en el Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua’ (2012) 173 El Cotidiano, pp. 6779, at 68.

162 Amnistía Internacional, ‘México Derechos Humanos en Peligro: Proyecto Presa La Parota’, Amnesty International, 2007, p. 12, available at:

163 Navarrete, L. Romero, ‘Experiencias de Acción Colectiva Frente a la Problemática Ambiental en México’ (2003) 50 Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, pp. 157174, at 167.

164 Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), ‘Informe Grandes Represas en América, ¿Peor el Remedio que la Enfermedad?’, pp. 94–5, available at:

165 LAWT, ‘Verdict on the Case concerning the Hydroelectric Dam Project on the Papagayo River in the State of Guerrero, Mexico’, Mar. 2006, available at:

166 H. Briseño, ‘Opositores a presa La Parota crearán autodefensa en Cacahuatepec, Guerrero’, La Jornada, 15 Jan. 2014, available at:

167 Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico (SEMARNAT), see; Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a la Presa La Parota (CECOP), see:

168 The agricultural tribunal has jurisdiction to consider allegedly unconstitutional action: see Martínez, M.V., Guerrero Tribunales Agrarios a veinte años de su creación’ (2012) 50 Revista de los Tribunales Agrarios, pp. 169193, at 183–4, available at:

169 Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) and Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), ‘Resumen de las ilegalidades cometidas en el Proyecto Hidroeléctrico La Parota, Memorando enviado a los Relatores Especiales de la ONU’, Aug. 2007, p. 12, available at:; UNCESCR, Consideration of Reports Submitted by State Parties under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant, Concluding Observations of Mexico, E/C.12/MEX/CO/49, 9 June 2006, available at:

170 UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, to the World Urban Forum III, Vancouver, BC (Canada), 19–23 June 2006, available at:

171 LAWT, Verdict – Mexico, n. 165 above.

172 Rosas Landa, n. 160 above, at p. 73.

173 The summary of the application submitted is contained in the verdict: LAWT Verdict – Mexico, n. 165 above, at pp. 1–3.

174 Ibid., at p. 7.

175 Ibid., at p. 8.

176 UNCESCR, Consideration of Reports, n. 169 above.

177 Ibid., para. 10.

178 LAWT, Verdict – Mexico, n. 165 above, at p. 9.

179 The Agricultural Court District 14, Acapulco, Guerrero, issued various decisions calling to a halt the process of approval of land expropriation in order to build the Parota dam: (i) 27 Mar. 2007, regarding Communal Properties of Cacahuatepec, Case No. 0447/2005; (ii) 18 Apr. 2007, with respect to Dos Arroyos, File No. 0074/2006; (iii) 25 Aug. 2008, regarding Los Huajes, Case No. 0072/2006; (iv) 14 May 2007, regarding La Palma, Case No. 0074/2006. See AIDA, n. 164 above, at p. 96.

180 M. Cifuentes Carbonetto, ‘El conflicto del proyecto hidroeléctrico represa La Parota’, Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales, 2007, available at:

181 The Agrarian Tribunal (TUA) 41 ruled in favour of the members of the Board of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to La Parota Dam: see Carranza, F. Meza, ‘Falla el Tua a Favor del Cecop; Declara nula la asamblea de La Concepción’, La Jornada Guerrero, 28 Apr 2011, p. 1, available at: section=sociedad&article=007n1soc.

182 Briseño, H., ‘Diez Años de Resistencia Contra la Presa La Parota’, La Jornada, 27 Dec. 2013, available at:

183 Maganda, n. 54 above, at p. 689.

184 LAWT, ‘Activity Report 2011–2012’, 2012, available at:

185 Argentine Supreme Court (in Spanish ‘Corte Suprema de la Nacion’ (CSJN)), ‘Mendoza, Beatriz Silvia y otros c/ Estado Nacional y otros s/ daños y perjuicios (daños derivados de la contaminación ambiental del Río Matanza – Riachuelo)’, 8 July 2008, Fallos 331:1622.

186 Belisle, J.M., ‘La Protección Constitucional del Medio Ambiente en Argentina: Reflexiones a la luz del caso “Cuenca Riachuelo”’, in B. Olmos Giupponi (ed.), Medio Ambiente, Cambio Climatico y Derechos Humanos (Dike, 2011), pp. 5774, at 72–3.

187 Argentine Supreme Court, n. 185 above, paras 75, 76; Olmos Giupponi, n. 46 above, at p. 100.

188 In Spanish ‘Vecinos Autoconvocados de González Catán’.

189 In Spanish ‘Coordinadora Ecológica Área Metropolitana Sociedad del Estado’.

190 Complaint submitted before the LAWT, summary included in the final verdict, at pp. 1–4: LAWT, ‘Verdict on Water Pollution in González Catán’, 7 Nov. 2012, available at:

191 LAWT, ‘CEAMSE demandada por Vecinos de González Catán ante el TLA’, 2012, available at:

192 According to the complaint, water presented ‘metal, crystal and algae particles and elements such as hexavalent’: see LAWT, n. 184 above.

193 Ibid.

194 LAWT Verdict – González Catán, n. 190 above, at p. 4, ‘Considerandos 1, 2 and 3’.

195 Ibid., at p. 5.

196 Ibid. The LAWT‘s recommendations have been only partially followed.

197 Water Lex, ‘Tribunal Latinoamericano del Agua, Grupo de Formación e Intervención para el Desarrollo (Grufides) y Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina (PIC) c/ Estado Peruano y Minera Yanacocha SRL’, 7 Nov. 2012, in Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, n. 113 above. For a detailed follow-up on the conflict see:

198 The claim was submitted in 2006 and examined during the hearing held in Mexico in Feb. 2006: see A. Pigrau, S. Borràs, J. Jaria i Manzano & A. Cardesa-Salzmann, ‘Legal Avenues for EJOs to Claim Environmental Liability’, Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT) Report No. 4, June 2012, p. 82, available at:; Suarez Rojas, n. 70 above, at pp. 18–9.

199 C. Jamasmie, ‘Peru “Washing its Hands” of Newmont’s Conga Mine Issues: Local Authorities’,, 7 Oct. 2013, available at:

200 In Spanish ‘Grupo de Formación e Intervención para el Desarrollo (Gufides) y Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina (PIC)’: see Grufides, Observatorio de Conflictos, available at:

201 H. Quesada Llucià, ‘Water Yes, Gold No! Empowerment and Social Change through the Social Mobilizations against the Conga Mining Project in the Andean Region of Peru’, Master’s thesis, Roskilde University, International Development Studies, June 2014, pp. 18–9, available at:,%20Gold%20No.pdf.

202 See Moran, Robert E., ‘The Conga Mine, Peru: Comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Related Issues’, Environmental Defender Law Center, 2012, available at:

203 LAWT, ‘Verdict – Conga Mining Case’, 7 Nov. 2012, available at:

204 Ibid.

205 Ibid., para. 36.

206 Ibid., para. 37.

207 Ibid., ‘Recommendations’, 1; UNGA Resolution A/RES/64/292, n. 75 above.

208 Ibid., ‘Recommendations’, 5.

209 The social movement to defend water resources and the environment also organized a People’s Summit in Cajamarca (Peru), 23–25 Oct. 2014.

210 Quesada Llucià, n. 201 above, at p. 86.

I would like to thank Andrew Byrnes and Gabrielle Simm (School of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney (Australia)) for their insightful comments on a previous version of this article, presented at the Workshop on Peoples’ Tribunals held at the Lelio Basso Foundation in Sept. 2013 in Rome (Italy). I am grateful to Sergio Costa (Institute of Latin American Studies, Free University, Berlin (Germany)) for hosting me as a visiting scholar of the Excellence Research Network exploring inequalities in Latin America (DesiguALdades) between June and Aug. 2014 and for his comments on the final version of the article. Finally, I would like to thank Javier Bogantes of the LAWT, who provided access to documents and materials in order to complete the analysis of the various cases. All errors, of course, remain mine.


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