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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 69
Año: 2000
Autor: Ramón López and Juan Carlos Jordán, Editors
Título: Sustainable Development in Latin America: Financing and Policies Working in Synergy

Box 4

Legal Traditions

To be effective, private enforcement activities must conform to the legal traditions of the region. Those legal traditions vary considerably. In common law (the legal system in most of the English-speaking Caribbean), the legal systems are based on law created through legal precedent, notwithstanding the existence of statutory law and rules. The common law is not the result of legislative enactment, rather its authority is derived solely through judicial decisions (Government Institutes, 1993). However, most common-law countries, including the United States, have legislated extensively with regard to the environmental area and a substantial part of the law is based on statutory provisions (including the citizen-suit provisions in U.S. statutes), but with a strong common law influence. Legal precedent is very relevant in the English-speaking Caribbean countries, but in those countries citizen-suits are not a common feature of the system.

The other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean follow the civil-law system as derived from the Roman-Germanic tradition. In a civil-law tradition, the legal system is based on an extensive system of laws and regulations. The courts apply these to specific cases presented to them and therefore play a less significant role in interpreting and making law. However, some complaint procedures resulting in a court decision provide the judiciary substantial authority and limit the discretionary powers of the executive branch.