Título: Sustainable Development Principles in the Dispute regarding Navigational and Related
Rights: the International Court of Justice decision in Costa Rica v. Nicaragua

Elaborado por: Jorge Cabrera Medaglia y Miguel Saldivia Olave


For the second time in less than two years, on March 8, 2011, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on a dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In the first occasion, the case arose from navigational and related rights of Costa Rica on the San Juan River. In the second occasion, the dispute mostly related to the territorial integrity of Costa Rica and to the environmental impacts of some activities carried out by Nicaragua in the San Juan River and in Costa Rica´s land affecting the environment (wetlands, biodiversity and the forest resources). This chapter addresses the environmental impacts of the case and the application of the sustainable development principles.

On November 2010, Costa Rica instituted proceedings in the ICJ against Nicaragua (a neighboring country) with regard to an alleged ‘incursion into, occupation of and use by Nicaragua’s Army of Costa Rican territory as well as breaches of Nicaragua’s obligations towards Costa Rica under several international treaties and conventions.

Costa Rica asserted that Nicaragua wasn’t only acting in outright breach of the established boundary regime between the two states, but was also transgressing the core founding principles of the United Nations, namely the principle of territorial integrity and the prohibition of the threat or use of force against any State in accordance with article 2 of the UN Charter; also endorsed between the parties in articles 1, 19 and 29 of the Charter of the Organization of American States.

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