Launch of “Customs and Constitutions”: an IUCN study on the state of recognition of customary law around the world

Across much of the globe, there has been increasing awareness over the past two decades of the significant role of customary law in natural resource governance. Despite this growing awareness, State recognition of customary law is still lacking in many countries, and even where it is recognized there is often conflict between statutory regimes and customary law.

Front cover photo: Customs and Constitutions Photo: Wheel of Dharma, Jokhang Monastery, Tibet © iStockphoto LP

This study analysed 190 national written constitutions currently in effect worldwide. Of those 190 constitutions, 115 were found to have provisions recognizing customary law in some form. Approximately 20 per cent of those provisions specifically recognize customary law and its application in the context of natural resources. Application of customary law may not always result in sustainability – as is also the case with the application of statutory law – but understanding it can provide important insights into how to regulate sustainable resource management.

Customs and Constitutions describes and analyzes constitutional recognition of customary law, provides a table with comprehensive references to the constitutional provisions as well as a similar table with references to statutory recognition of customary law, and includes a bibliography of selected literature.

Cuskelly, Katrina. (2011). Customs and Constitutions: State recognition of customary law around the world. IUCN, Bangkok, Thailand. vi + 151 pp.
ISBN: 978-2-8317-1429-5

Work area: 
Environmental Law
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