The Precautionary Principle and the Ecosystem Approach in International Law: Differences, Similarities and Linkages


  • Dr Arie Trouwborst, LL.M., lectures on international and European law at Utrecht University School of Law and is a research associate at the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS). His primary research interests are international and European environmental law and the law of the sea. The research for this article was sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Comments by Harm Dotinga and Erik Jaap Molenaar are gratefully acknowledged.


The precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach are often mentioned in one breath. This article explores the differences, similarities and relationship between the two concepts. In a comparative and integrated assessment, it addresses, among other things, the purpose, core elements and status of the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach under international law, the role of scientific information in their application, and the management actions associated with their implementation.