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The Colonial Aspects of International Environmental Law: Treaties as Promoters of Continuous Structural Violence

  • Douglas de Castro


The formation of international institutions in the twentieth century occurs under a scenario marked by the rule of colonialism and imperialism. Thus, instead of reducing inequalities in the world system, international institutions reproduce a prevalent logic of material and subjective discrimination based on a colonialist ideology marked by violence, which is communicated in a certain way so that it can justify its importance and legitimacy. The colonial violence is perpetuated under the form of symbolic violence manifested in the language that imposes a universal meaning and systemic violence that manifests itself in the ‘perfect’ functioning of the world economic and political system as the ultimate form of development. One of the perverse and subtle dimensions of this violence is observed in the emergence of the International Environmental Law in terms of metanarratives that exclude minorities and perceptions other than the ones propagated by international institutions. The main objective of this article is to identify the dynamics in the formation of environmental treaties leading to standard results of discursive practices that feed the process of dependence and legitimation marked by colonial ruling and structural violence. The methodological approach relies on the critical theory tenets to expose the non-emancipatory features of current International Environmental Law.
For that matter, this article applies the socio-legal approach to environmental treaties that consists of the analysis of text (law), subtext (the moral aspects of the law – deep or implicit meanings), and context (the undeniable connection between law and reality) in the search of empirical evidence. This task is performed using the computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CADQAS) called ATLAS.ti.