6. The principle of integration and interrelationship, in particular in relation to human rights and social, economic and environmental objectives

Few problems, whether local or national, have simple causes. Poverty may be caused by environmental degradation, poor education, unfair economic systems, social inequalities, poor government, or all of these things at once. And it is extremely rare to find a simple answer to a complex and long-standing problem. Instead, we need to be able to find solutions that address all factors, whether they are social, economic, financial, environmental, or human rights based. We need to be able to think and plan across disciplines and sectors.

This may feel threatening, as it cuts through clear-cut concepts and predictions, breaking down boundaries between science and policy areas. But rising to this challenge is essential, because real life rarely fits neatly within our artificially created divisions.


The United Nations is one example of this integrative thinking and linking. Its predecessor, the League of Nations, was meant only to deal with security matters. But when the international community recognized the social, economic, racial, religious or gender origins of many conflicts, it provided the United Nations with a broad mandate geared to providing decent living standards and fundamental freedoms for all. In 2007 the UN Security Council held its first-ever debate on the impacts of climate change on peace, security and migration.

Download CISDL draft legal working paper on integration

Download CISDL legal working paper on the 7 Future Justice principles


This principle is already widely recognized in international law or practice. For example:

Convention on Biological Diversity

“Each Contracting Party shall, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities:
(a) Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of
biological diversity or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes which shall
reflect, inter alia, the measures set out in this Convention relevant to the Contracting Party concerned;
(b) Integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological
diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.”

Article 6, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992

Convention on Climate Change

“The Parties have a right to, and should, promote sustainable development. Policies and measures to
protect the climate system against human-induced change should be appropriate for the specific
conditions of each Party and should be integrated with national development programmes, taking into
account that economic development is essential for adopting measures to address climate change.”

Article 3.4, UN Convention on Climate Change, 1992

Rio Declaration

“In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the
development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.”

Principle 4, Millennium Declaration, 2002

Convention on Desertification

“In pursuing the objective of this Convention, the Parties shall:
(a) adopt an integrated approach addressing the physical, biological and socio-economic aspects of the
processes of desertification and drought;”

Article 4(2)(a), UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought, 1994

Northeast Pacific Convention

“Article 10:
1. As part of the implementation of their policies and strategies for integrated management and
sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment, the Contracting Parties shall
incorporate into their economic development projects in marine and coastal areas those
environmental criteria that provide sustainability in the use of resources and in the maintenance
of the integrity of ecosystems.<//font><//u>

2. Also as part of these policies, the Contracting Parties shall strive to implement integrated
management and bring about sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment….”<//font><//u>

Article 10.1 and 10.2, Convention for Cooperation in the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of The Northeast Pacific, 2002

Court of Arbitration

“Today, both international and EC law require the integration of appropriate environmental measures in the design and implementation of economic development activities.”

Paragraph 59, Award of the Arbitral Tribunal, Permanent Court of Arbitration,
Belgium v Netherlands (Iron Rhine (Ijeren Rijn) Railway), 2005

Questions and resources

The 3 questions below can be used to focus upon this principle, and to test the action of any law or policy:

6.1 Does the law/policy integrate social justice and environmental protection into economic development plans and projects?

6.2 Does it ensure that development decision-making takes environmental and social impacts into account, providing for mitigation, modification or cancellation if necessary?

6.3 Does it provide or enhance benefits for the environment, and the society?