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The Role of Specific Discipline Principles in International Law: A Parallel Analysis between Environmental and Cultural Heritage Law

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Specific discipline principles are recurrently used in legal argumentation and in scholarly publications; yet, no single work has elucidated their concept and role in international law. This article sheds some light on this question by conducting a parallel analysis of two international domains – environmental and cultural heritage law – that, despite being close in nature, have opted for a completely different use of these principles. It is argued that specific discipline principles are guiding normative provisions which aim to produce legal effects, and whose presence (i) is a determining factor in the evolution of a subject into a separate legal branch, and (ii) increases the chances of such branch of being considered an important matter in international law. This is because specific discipline principles perform two sets of functions: one internal whereby they allow rationalising a more or less disarrayed cluster of norms and conventions into a coherent whole; and one external which refers to these principles ability of projecting their discipline’s ethos into broader international law discourses. Finally, this article contends that understanding the functioning of specific discipline principles is key to acquiring a better understanding of the dynamics of the current highly specialised international law.

Affiliations: 1: Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law Heidelberg, Germany


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