The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is developing guidelines on the implementation of the “precautionary approach” in the work of IMO, as set out in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21. This paper provides an introduction to the precautionary approach as it has been developed in international law. Second, proposals before MEPC to apply the precautionary approach are discussed, including a framework for decision making within IMO. An example is provided of how such a framework would be applied in practice to an actual issue before the IMO.

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