Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

International Conference Health and the Environment in International Law: Actors, Norms and Responsibilities

Call for Papers for the International Conference “Health and the Environment in International Law: Actors, Norms and Responsibilities” co-organized by Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg; ESIL Interest Group on International Health Law; ESIL Interest Group on International Environmental Law; Jean Monnet Chair in European Health, Environmental and Food Safety Law. The conference will be held on October 17-18, 2018, at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany.

gLAWcal – Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development is sponsoring this event through the possible publication of some selected papers in the gLAWcal-Routledge book series "Transnational Law and Governance" published by Routledge (New-York/London).


Deadline: 30 June 2018

Pollution, climate change and their negative effects on the environment are major determinants of health. Globally, 23% of all deaths and 26% of deaths among children under age 5 are due to preventable environmental risks. Maintaining a healthy environment is thus central to increasing quality of life and years of healthy life. Additionally, the negative impacts of environmental degradation on public health disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, thus increasing inequalities and social instability.

On the other hand, environmental health is a dynamic and evolving field. While not all complex environmental issues can be grasped with full detail, certain emerging threats have already been identified. The negative effects of these threats have a noticeable impact on the global burden of disease. However, due to their cross-cutting aspects, responses to the challenges they pose tend to fall under the purview of more than one environmental treaty.

From this perspective, it is worth exploring whether the factual relationship between the environment and health can also lead to a closer linkage of environmental law and health law. This especially means taking institutional relations into consideration, since a single problem may fall under the mandate of more than one international organization. They may also involve a broad range of non-state actors, such as NGOs as well as hybrid international institutions such as public-private-partnerships, which are devoted to these issues.

The analysis of environment-health interactions from a normative perspective will support the design of more effective preventive public health strategies and interventions. Given how environmental health-related problems can be global in their scope, a coordinated response by the international community is required. Consequently, assessing the existing legal frameworks at the international level can lead to insights on how these issues are currently being addressed, as well as what are the current challenges and opportunities in the field.

The conference aims at exploring the contribution of international law, in both fields of health law and environmental law, to the prevention of known and emerging environmental risks to public health. In line with the objectives of the Max Planck Institute’s International Health Governance Project, the debate will also focus on the identification of major actors and relevant responsibilities within the framework of global health and environmental governance. For this purpose, an analysis of the exercise of international public authority (IPA) of international institutions involved in environmental health issues will also be welcome. This will lead to engaging both with legally binding and non-binding instruments as well as international institutions that are not necessarily intergovernmental, thus encompassing private or hybrid actors such as public-private partnerships with regard to environmental health.

Areas of interest

The conference will address the legal aspects of the intersections between health and the environment with regard to climate change, biodiversity, pollution of air and water, and natural disasters. Special focus will be put on contemporary challenges to international law under the following interconnected topics:

✓   effects of climate change as a leading environmental determinant of health; climate change and the right

to health; the Paris Agreement, and SDGs 3 and 13;

✓   biodiversity and human health, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and sharing of pathogens under

the Nagoya Protocol;

✓    right to water, water management and control of waterborne diseases (with particular regard to the UNECE Protocol on Water and Health), quality of air and control of airborne diseases, pollution- reduction strategies, right to a healthy environment, food security, food safety, SDGs 2, 6 and 11; and

✓   natural disasters and weather-related disasters, emergency preparedness and response, intersections

between health law-environmental law-disaster law.


Venue and dates: The Conference will take place at the premises of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany, on 17-18 October, 2018.


Structure of the conference: The conference will be divided into four sessions, each chaired by a discussant briefly introducing the topic of the session and initiating the discussion, with the participation of two speakers with 15 minutes available for each presentation.


Abstracts addressing one of the above-mentioned topics shall be submitted by e-mail to the following addresses:, and by 30 June 2018. They shall include the following information:

✓   The author’s name and affiliation;

✓   A 500-700-word abstract [Word file or PDF]

✓   The author’s CV, including a list of relevant publications, if applicable;

✓   The author’s contact details, including e-mail address and phone number;

Multiple abstracts from the same authors will be considered, but only one will be selected. Co-authored multidisciplinary papers are also welcome. Applicants will be informed of the selection committee’s decision no later than 15 July2018.


Eligibility: All ESIL Members are invited to submit abstracts. Non-ESIL Members are also eligible to submit abstracts but ESIL membership will be required if the abstract is selected.


Financialsupport: The Max Planck Institute offers accommodation for up to two nights in a hotel in Heidelberg, as well as financial support for travel expenses for a maximum of €300, to those who are selected for presenting a paper.


Publication opportunities: Papers selected for the conference will be considered for future publication. At a first instance, papers may be published in the Max Planck Research Paper Series ( Additionally, the organizers envisage the possibility to publish an edited book in Routledge Publishing (New York/London) book series on “Transnational Law and Governance” (


Co-organizers:Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg; ESIL Interest Group on International Health Law; ESIL Interest Group on International Environmental Law; Jean Monnet Chair in European Health, Environmental and Food Safety Law.