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Foreword

Traduit par Pieter Jan Kuijper et Jason Rudall (trad.)

Texte intégral

1Dear Thierry Derez, Chief Executive Officer of Covéa,
Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols observed,
Dear colleagues,

2Water is a basic resource without which life on our planet is impossible. Many myths from across the world present water as the origin of everything. Yet these same stories reflect the ambiguity of water. To give just one example, the Mesopotamian myth Enuma Elish starts with an undifferentiated mixture of salt water and freshwater, characterized by two entities, Apsu (freshwater) and Tiamat (salt water), described as being in permanent sexual union. Only when this union is broken (Apsu is killed by his son Ea/Enki, who becomes the god and lord of freshwaters, and the ally of humans) does the world become able to welcome living beings and establish order.

3Access to freshwater has always been an issue of critical importance to mankind. Although water is the planet’s most abundant resource and there is a constant quantity of it, it is not naturally distributed in a ‘balanced’ way. The 97% of its total volume cannot be consumed, nor used for irrigation or even for industrial purposes, due to its high salt content. A very significant number of people have no access to freshwater, or can access it only with great difficulty.

4Surprisingly, international efforts to regulate water developed only recently, in the second half of the twentieth century. International law, among other things, plays an important role in preventing and settling water-related disputes through diplomatic or judicial mechanisms. When armed conflicts arise, water can be both a target and a weapon.

5From the perspective of international law, water has become an increasingly fundamental issue. In addition to environmental law, international human rights law is being called upon more and more, and access to water is becoming a central concern to all.

6It was therefore logical that those in charge of the annual Sustainable Common Future Chair decided to devote this year’s teaching to this issue.

7Let me say a word about the Sustainable Common Future Chair. This Chair was created as part of the initiative with the same title, launched in 2021 by the the Collège de France’s professors. Dedicated to the challenges of environmental and energy transition, it welcomes international experts every year to highlight the latest research in this field. The Chair is supported by the Fondation du Collège de France and its major benefactors, Covéa and TotalEnergies.

8To address the issue of water in international law, those responsible for the Sustainable Common Future Chair have found the best specialist in this area, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes this evening.

9Laurence Boisson de Chazournes has been full professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva since 1999, and has been visiting professor at Aix-Marseille University, the Universities of Paris I and Paris II, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, and the National University of Singapore. She is a member of the Institut de Droit International (IDI) and Director of the Master in International Dispute Settlement (MIDS).

10She is an expert and advisor to governments, international organizations (United Nations, World Health Organization, International Labor Office, World Bank, Unesco, World Trade Organization), non-profit associations, foundations and companies. She was a member of the Advisory Committee of the United Nations Human Rights Council between 2011 and 2017, a member of the Panel on Water and Peace (2015-2017), and a member of the Research Council of the European University Institute (2017-2021).

11Laurence Boisson de Chazournes has been a member of executive boards of academic and professional societies such as the American Society of International Law (ASIL), the Société française pour le droit international (SFDI), and the Project on International Courts and Tribunals (PICT). She was President of the European Society of International Law (SEDI/ESIL) from 2012 to 2014, as well as a member of its Executive Committee.

12Laurence Boisson de Chazournes is the author of several books and numerous articles, and has edited some twenty books. Her books include Fresh Water in International Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2021) and Les Relations entre organisations régionales et organisations universelles (The Hague, Nijhoff, 2010).

13For her work and commitment, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes was awarded the Elizabeth Haub Prize in Environmental Law in 2008 and an honorary doctorate from Aix-Marseille University in 2014.

14Dear Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, we are very honoured and pleased to welcome you to the Collège de France, for the lecture series that you will inaugurate this evening. It is with great pleasure that I hand you the floor.1

Notes de bas de page

1 The “Le droit international au fil de l’eau” lecture series is available on the Collège de France website: https://www.college-de-france.fr/fr/chaire/laurence-boisson-de-chazournes-avenir-commun-durable-chaire-annuelle/events.

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