Professor of Public International Law

MA, BCL, LLD, Barrister
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  • Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2019
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    Thursdays 3pm-4pm


Alan Boyle specialises in Public International Law. Educated at Oxford University, he has also taught at the University of London (Queen Mary College); University of Texas Law School; William and Mary College Law School, Virginia; the University of Paris (Paris II & X), and LUISS in Rome. He was General Editor of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly from 1998 until 2006.

His research interests include international environmental law, the law of the sea, the law of treaties, international law-making and the settlement of international disputes. He welcomes enquiries from students interested in undertaking an M.Phil or Ph.D in any of these fields.

He is a barrister and practises occasionally in the International Court of Justice and other international tribunals, mainly in environmental and law of the sea cases.

Courses Taught

Fundamental Issues in International Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Climate Change Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Environmental Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Law of the Marine Environment (LLM)

International Law of the Sea (LLM)

International Law Ord 1 (Ordinary)

PhD Supervisees

Snjólaug Árnadóttir  'The Effect of Changing Circumstances on Maritime Limits and Maritime Boundaries'

Justine Bendel  'Role of International Courts and Tribunals in Environmental Disputes'

Beatriz de Sousa Fernandes  'A legal study of Marine Protected Areas in the context of International Environmental Law'

Dawoon Jung  'A study on International regulations of offshore energy activities'

Ruby Moynihan  'The contribution of the UNECE Water Regime to environmental protection and equity in international water law'


Alan Boyle, Catherine Redgwell and Patricia Birnie International Law and the Environment (3rd edn) (OUP, 2009)
Abstract: Written by three of the leading academics in the field, this new edition of International Law and the Environment continues to provide the definitive account of the core principles of the subject. New to this edition • Expanded coverage of the principal law-making processes and multilateral treaty regimes • Fully updated and revised to take account of the growing body of case law emanating from international tribunals • Rewritten chapters on human rights and the environment, and on climate change and the Kyoto protocol, reflecting important developments in these fields Contents 1. International law and the environment; 2. International governance and the formulation of environmental law and policy; 3. Rights and obligations of states concerning protection of the environment; 4. Interstate enforcement: state responsibility, treaty compliance, and dispute settlement; 5. Non-State Actors: Environmental rights, liability and crimes; 6. Climate change and atmospheric pollution; 7. The law of the sea and the protection of the marine environment; 8. International regulation of toxic substances; 9. Nuclear energy and the environment; 10. Sustainable use of International watercourses; 11. Conservation of nature, ecosystems, and biodiversity: Principles and problems; 12. Conservation of migratory and land-based species and biodiversity; 13. Conservation of marine living resources and biodiversity; 14. International trade and environmental protection

Alan Boyle, Christine Chinkin The Making of International Law (OUP, 2007)
Abstract: This is a study of the principal negotiating processes and law-making tools through which contemporary international law is made. It does not seek to give an account of the traditional - and untraditional - sources and theories of international law, but rather to identify the processes, participants and instruments employed in the making of international law. It accordingly examines some of the mechanisms and procedures whereby new rules of law are created or old rules are amended or abrogated. It concentrates on the UN, other international organisations, diplomatic conferences, codification bodies, NGOs, and courts. Every society perceives the need to differentiate between its legal norms and other norms controlling social, economic and political behaviour. But unlike domestic legal systems where this distinction is typically determined by constitutional provisions, the decentralised nature of the international legal system makes this a complex and contested issue. Moreover, contemporary international law is often the product of a subtle and evolving interplay of law-making instruments, both binding and non-binding, and of customary law and general principles. Only in this broader context can the significance of so-called 'soft law' and multilateral treaties be fully appreciated. An important question posed by any examination of international law-making structures is the extent to which we can or should make judgments about their legitimacy and coherence, and if so in what terms. Put simply, a law-making process perceived to be illegitimate or incoherent is more likely to be an ineffective process. From this perspective, the assumption of law-making power by the UN Security Council offers unique advantages of speed and universality, but it also poses a particular challenge to the development of a more open and participatory process observable in other international law-making bodies.

Edited Books

Alan Boyle, James Crawford Annex A Opinion: Referendum on the Independence of Scotland - International Law Aspects (UK Government, 2012)
Abstract: If Scotland were to become independent after the referendum planned for late 2014, it would be with the UK's agreement rather than by unilateral secession. In practice, its status in international law and that of the remainder of the UK (rUK) would depend on what arrangements the two governments made between themselves before and after the referendum, and on whether other states accepted their positions on such matters as continuity and succession. But there are a number of legal considerations.

Alan Boyle, Chris Himsworth, Hector MacQueen, Andrea Loux Human Rights and Scots Law (Hart Publishing, 2002)
Abstract: Essays analysing the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 in Scots law, with comparative reference to other systems. Includes essays on the Human Rights Act and Scotland Act, human rights and the law of crime, property, employment, family and private life.

Alan Boyle, Bowman, Michael Environmental Damage in International and Comparative Law (OUP, 2002)

Alan Boyle, David Freestone International Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges (OUP, 1999)
Abstract: nternational Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges is a collection of essays that cover some of the most important contemporary issues in contemporary law relating to sustainable development, the utilization of natural resources, and the protection of the environment. Written by well-known experts on these topics who include judges of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; legal advisers from international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Maritime Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization; and practitioners of international law, as well as some of the leading scholars writing on international environmental law and related subjects this book covers many of the major legal developments that have taken place since the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The contributors bring new perspectives on sustainable development as a legal principle, the role of the International Law Commission in codifying international environmental law, the protection of the marine environment following the entry into force of the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, and the revolution in international fisheries law. The editors have ensured that the book covers a wide range of topics from Antarctica to small whales and the book will be of particular interest to those teaching or practising law of the sea and international environmental law.

Alan Boyle, Michael R. Anderson Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection (OUP, 1996)
Abstract: This collection of essays explores links between the environment and human rights, and responds to the growing debate among activists, lawyers, academics and policy-makers on the legal status of environmental rights in both international and domestic law, and on the proposals for a human right to a satisfactory environment. The collection is an original and timely contribution to the existing literature on this subject, and offers a sustained analysis which addresses both the conceptual and practical problems of environmental rights. The conceptual dimensions are particularly rich, raising fundamental questions concerning the human/environment relationship as well as more general issues regarding the form, content and limitations of international and domestic human rights law. The first part of the book deals mainly with the protection of the environment in international human rights law and EC law, while part two concentrates on problems and experience in developing countries, some of which have already incorporated environmental rights and international constitutional law and from which a growing jurisprudence has emerged. This is where at present human rights approaches seem to be of greatest value. Each chapter is written by an author well qualified in the field. The volume will have a wide appeal to anyone interested in environmental law and human rights.

Alan Boyle, Patricia Birnie Basic Documents on International Law and the Environment (Clarendon Press, 1995)

Journal Articles

James Harrison, Alan Boyle 'Judicial settlement of International Environmental Disputes: Current Problems' (2013) Journal of International Dispute Settlement Vol 4 pp 245-276

Alan Boyle 'Human Rights and the Environment: Where next?' (2012) European Journal of International Law p613 v23

Alan Boyle 'Human Rights or Environmental Rights? A Reassessment' (2007) Fordham Environmental Law Review Vol XVIII pp471-511 [Download]
Abstract: Should we continue to think about human rights and the environment within the existing framework of human rights law in which the protection of humans is the central focus - essentially a greening of the rights to life, private life and property - or has the time come to talk directly about environmental rights - in other words to have the environment itslef protected? Should we transcend the anthropocentric in favour of the ecocentric?

Alan Boyle 'The Environmental Jurisprudence of the ITLOS' (2007) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law Vol 22 pp 369-381 [Download]
Abstract: This article considers the environmental jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals within the previous 10 years, with special reference to the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea.

Alan Boyle 'EU Unilateralism and the Law of the Sea' (2006) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law vol 21 pp15-31

Alan Boyle 'Globalising Environmental Liability: the Interplay of National and International Law' (2005) Journal of Environmental Law vol 17 pp3-26

Alan Boyle 'Further Development of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention: Mechanisms for Change' (2005) International and Comparative Law Quarterly vol 54 pp563-84

Alan Boyle 'Problems of Compulsory Jurisdiction and the Settlement of Disputes Relating to Straddling Fish Stocks' (1999) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law Vol 14 pp1-25

Alan Boyle 'Some Reflections on the Relationship of Treaties and Soft Law' (1999) International and Comparative Law Quarterly Vol 48 pp 901-913

Alan Boyle 'The Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Case: New Wine Old Bottles?' (1997) Yearbook of International Environmental Law Vol 8 pp13-20

Alan Boyle 'Dispute Settlement and the Law of the Sea Convention: Problems of Fragmentation and Jurisdiction' (1997) International and Comparative Law Quarterly Vol 46 pp37-54


Alan Boyle, Kasey McCall-Smith 'Transparency in International Law-Making' in (eds) Transparency in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2013) 419 - 435

Alan Boyle 'The Challenge of Climate Change: International Law Perspectives' in S. Kingston (eds) European Perspectives on Enviromental Law and Governance (Routledge, 2012) p. 55-80

Alan Boyle 'Reflections on the Treaty as a Law-making Instrument (A.Orakhelashvili and S.Williams, eds)' in Eleanor Fox and Michael Trebilcock (Eds) (eds) Process, procedure and design of competition law institutions: global norms, local choices (OUP, 2012) pp. 1-28
Abstract: In this chapter we will explore the impact of multilateral treaty-making on the international law-making process. The catalytic effect of multilateral treaties on customary international law is their most obvious and well-known law-making characteristic. Less well noticed is the foundation they provide for evolving regulatory regimes - framework or umbrella treaties to which are added successive additional treaties, protocols, implementation agreements, regional agreements, and subsidiary rules, including treaty annexes and binding decisions of the parties, or non-binding soft law that may nevertheless have legal effect pursuant to Article 31(3)(a) VCLT. But if the use of multilateral treaties for law-making purposes has undoubtedly been refined in the past forty years, other developments have also begun to supplement 'the only and sadly overworked instrument with which international society is equipped'. At one end of the spectrum, soft law instruments now play a noticeably larger role than before. At the other, the UN Security Council's forays into international law-making provide another indicator that there are alternatives to multilateral treaty making.

Alan Boyle 'Liability for Injurious Consequences of Acts Not Prohibited by International Law' in James Crawford, Alain Pellet, Simon Olleson, and Kate Parlett (eds) The Law of International Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 2010) pp. 95-104

Alan Boyle 'Relationship between International Environmental Law and Other Branches of International Law' in D. Bodansky, J. Brunnée, E. Hey (eds) The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2007) pp.125-146.
Abstract: This chapter looks at the relationship between international environmental law, human rights law, and WTO law. It argues that judges of international courts prefer an integrated conception of international law to a fragmented one, and that appropriate tools are available within the existing legal system for achieving coherence, provided the parties do not restrict the applicable law too narrowly in dispute settlement arrangements.

Alan Boyle 'Forum Shopping for UNCLOS Disputes Relating to Marine Scientific Research' in M.Nordquist (eds) Law, Science and Ocean Management (Nijhoff, 2007) pp.519-540.

Alan Boyle, Christine Chinkin 'UNCLOS III and the Process of International Law-making' in M.Ndiaye & R.Wolfrum (eds) Liber Amicorum Judge T. Mensah (Brill, 2007) pp.371-388
Abstract: An examination of the process of consensus law-making employed at the UNCLOS III conference and its influence on the negotiation of later law-making treaties.

Alan Boyle 'Central Asian Water Problems: the Role of International Law' in S. Cummings (eds) Oil, Transition and Security in Central Asia (Routledge, 2003) pp.203-15

Alan Boyle 'Human rights and Scots law: introduction' in Alan Boyle, Chris Himsworth, Hector MacQueen, Andrea Loux (eds) Human Rights and Scots Law (Hart Publishing, 2002) 1-7

Alan Boyle 'Codification of Environmental Law and the International Law Commission: Injurious Consequences Re-visited' in Alan Boyle, David Freestone (eds) International Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges (OUP, 1999) pp.61-86

Alan Boyle 'Introduction' in Alan Boyle, David Freestone (eds) International Law and Sustainable Development: Past Achievements and Future Challenges (OUP, 1999) Ch.1, pp.1-18

Alan Boyle 'UNCLOS, the Marine Environment, and the Settlement of Disputes' in Henrik Ringbom (eds) Competing Norms in the Law of Marine Environmental Protection. focus on ship safety and pollution prevention (Kluwer , 1997) pp.241-256

Alan Boyle 'Remedying Harm to International Common Spaces and Resources: Compensation and Other Approaches' in Peter Wetterstein (eds) Harm to the Environment: The Right to Compensation and Assessment of Damages (Oxford University Press, 1997) pp.83-100

Alan Boyle 'The Role of International Human Rights Law in the Protection of the Environment' in Alan Boyle, Michael R. Anderson (eds) Human Rights Approaches to Environmental Protection (OUP, 1996) pp.43-65

Working Papers

Alan Boyle 'Human Rights and the Environment: A Reassessment', UNEP Human Rights and Environment (UNEP, 2010) [Download]
Abstract: Put simply, the question addressed in this paper is the following. Should we continue to think about human rights and the environment within the existing framework of human rights law in which the protection of humans is the central focus - essentially a greening of the rights to life, private life, and property - or has the time come to talk directly about environmental rights - in other words a right to have the environment itself protected? Should we transcend the anthropocentric in favour of the ecocentric?