World Commission on Environmental Law


The IUCN WCEL Ethics Specialist Group (ESG) is a global network of practitioners and scholars from across disciplines seeking to (1) highlight the ethical issues in biodiversity conservation and specific natural resource controversies; and (2) engage with diverse local and global partners to foster ethical engagement, bear witness to ethics in action, and share stories of success and failure.
Rice manual threshing in Mauritania

Klaus Bosselmann Photo: WCEL






Klaus Bosselmann, Chair

Bio note

Kathryn Gwiazdon Photo: WCEL






Kathryn Gwiazdon, Deputy Chair

Bio note


  • The ESG seeks to be the hub for ethical engagement within IUCN by actively seeking to highlight ethical issues in conservation and decision-making, and being responsive to queries from members, commissions, or Secretariat bodies.

  • Advancing major global projects, including the Biosphere Ethics Initiative (BEI), Climate Change Justice, Earth Democracy (including Earth Jurisprudence), and Ecological Law and Governance.

2017 Highlights

The WCEL Ethics Specialist Group convened an in-person meeting and launched the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA) on 12-13 October at the University of Siena (Italy). The founding document for the ELGA is the Oslo Manifesto, created at a 2016 workshop of the Specialist Group.

Further activities of the Specialist Group included:

  • Establishing the Bisphere Ethics Initiative (BEI) and introducing the Relato Methodology (RM) into IUCN’s component programmes and commissions;
  • Continuing projects “Climate Ethics” and “Earth Democracy”;
  • Continuing the “Planetary Integrity Project” between universities, NGOs, and professional organizations; and
  • Beginning collaboration to work on a rights of nature initiative as a focal point in IUCN’s decision-making and to inform a large global audience to inform about the UN Harmony with Nature Initiative, jurisprudence on “rights of nature,” and to create a “Universal Declaration of River Rights” through publications and e-learning courses with background and objective legal analysis.


Chairs Emeriti

J. Ronald Engel Photo: WCEL J. Ronald Engel (Co-Chair 2003-2012)

Bio note





Peter Burdon Photo: WCEL Peter Burdon (Co-Chair 2012-2016)

Bio note

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