PhD: The role of non-compliance procedures and dispute resolution mechanisms in preventing and addressing transboundary conflicts regarding environmental priorities

Northumbria University

Newcastle, United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Project Description

The adoption of non-compliance procedures has become common practice in Multilateral Environmental Treaty Regimes. The task of such procedures tends to be three-fold: firstly, they provide a system by which States report on their efforts in the implementation of treaty commitment; secondly, they provide a forum by which alleged incidences of non-compliance can be examined; and thirdly, they offer direct support in situations where incidences of non-compliance have been discovered.

Non-compliance procedures have been seen as a useful alternative to more traditional, adversarial-based, dispute settlement mechanism. Academics and practitioners have maintained that the use of such procedures over traditional dispute settlement mechanisms is particularly advantageous in the case of transboundary environmental issues because of the complexity of transboundary environmental disputes and the challenges associated with determining causality and responsibility. However, States continue to resort to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to resolve their disputes over transboundary issues. Examples include the 1997 ICJ Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Case (Hungary / Slovakia), the 2010 ICJ Pulp Mills Case (Argentina v Uruguay), the 2015 ICJ San Juan River Cases (Costa Rica v Nicaragua & Nicaragua v Costa Rica), and the PCA Kishenganga Arbitration (India v Pakistan).

The studentship will explore the track record of non-compliance procedures within Multilateral Environmental Treaty Regimes and /or assess the role of international courts in addressing transboundary environmental disputes. Key questions that the research might consider, include:
– What is the relationship between traditional dispute settlement mechanisms and non-compliance procedures?
– What factors influence whether or not a State is willing to submit a dispute to a non-compliance procedure and/or international court?
– How successful have non-compliance procedures and/or traditional dispute settlement mechanisms been in resolving disputes between States concerning one or more Multilateral Environmental Treaty regime?
– How can jurisdictional overlap and potential competition between the non-compliance procedures be addressed and synergies promoted?
– How do non-compliance procedures under Environmental Treaty Regimes compare to those within other areas of international law, e.g., Human Rights Treaty Regimes? Can lessons be shared across different legal areas?
– What is/ should be the role of science within non-compliance procedures and/or traditional dispute settlement mechanisms? How should scientific evidence and scientists be incorporated into such procedures and mechanisms?
– Can international courts learn from the practice of specialised environmental courts at the national level?
– What is/ should be the role of non-State actors in non-compliance procedures and/or proceedings before international courts and tribunals?

The studentship will be aligned to the University’s Environmental and Global Justice theme which brings together researchers across disciplines with a focus on justice for people, the planet, and agendas for development that account for both current and future generations.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Deadline for applications: 20 January 2017
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is being considered for studentship funding in competition with other projects, available to applicants worldwide. The studentship includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates for 2017/18 (this is yet to be set, in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000 / International Lab-based £16,000). Additionally, as Northumbria celebrates its 25th anniversary as a University and in line with our international outlook, some projects may also be offered to students from outside of the EU supported by a half-fee reduction.


Gill, G.N., ‘Environmental Justice in India: The National Green Tribunal and Expert Members’, 5(1) Transnational Environmental Law 174 (2016).

Gill, G.N., Environmental Justice in India – The National Green Tribunal (Routledge 2017).

Rieu-Clarke, A., “Notification and Consultation on Planned Measures Concerning International Watercourses: Learning Lessons from the Pulp Mills and Kishenganga Cases”, Yearbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press 2014).

Rieu-Clarke, A. & Kinna, R., “Can Two Global UN Water Conventions Effectively Co-exist? Making the Case for a ‘Package Approach’ to Support Institutional Co-ordination”, 23 Review of European Community and International Environmental Law 15 (2014).

Tanzi, A, McIntyre, O, Kolliopolos A, Kinna R and Rieu-Clarke, A, eds, The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes : Its contribution to international water cooperation (Brill 2014).

Rieu-Clarke, A., Transboundary Hydropower Projects Seen Through the Lens of Three International Legal Regimes: Foreign Investment, Environmental Protection and Human Rights’, 3(1) International Journal of Water Governance (2015).