National legal systems

Governance of natural resources represents a significant challenge to achieving sustainable development.

Law is the most effective tool we have to influence behaviour, coordinate action and achieve public goals such as conservation. It is therefore fundamental to fair and effective governance of natural resources.

About law

Law is a key component of governance. It sets the basic structure of government and enshrines the rights of people.
Law defines substantive norms, establishes decision-making institutions, and sets out processes for conservation. It also provides mechanisms for accountability and conflict resolution.



countries have provisions in their constitution to conserve nature and protect the environment.



environmental laws and regulations worldwide refer to governance.

About governance

Governance refers to decision-making and to the process by which decisions are implemented or not implemented.
Governance involves many participants serving many roles – government officials, legal authorities, self-governing organisations and non-government actors such as citizens, industry stakeholders, those being governed and those who are affected by governance.
Governance is good or effective when decision makers act in an open, fair and transparent way, can be held accountable, and their decisions are inclusive, efficient, participatory, consensus-oriented and follow the rule of law.

Our work in national legal systems

Over the last five decades extensive legal frameworks have been developed to ensure environmental sustainability. However, ecosystems and natural resources continue to decline at an alarming rate, while environmental challenges like climate change and species loss accelerate. This raises questions of implementation and legal effectiveness and governance structures in the environmental context and highlights the importance of their development need within a constantly changing environment.
To respond to these needs the IUCN Environmental Law Team (ELT) works in advancing the conceptual development of international and national environmental law through the production of guidelines, assessments, and surveys of trends in the field, and provides experts analysis of and recommendations for its further development.
Major guidelines were produced as part of its Environmental Policy and Law Paper Series (EPLP) such as the:

  • Explanatory Guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Explanatory Guide to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
  • Accessing Biodiversity and Sharing the Benefit
  • Legal and Institutional Frameworks for Sustainable Soils
  • Explanatory Guide to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing
  • Guidelines for Protected Areas Legislation
  • The Legal Aspects of Connectivity Conservation
  • Governance for Sustainability
  • Conservation with Justice
  • Legal Frameworks for REDD
  • Payment for Ecosystems Services
  • Governance of Ecosystem Services
  • Framework for Assessing and Improving Law for Sustainability
  • Integrated planning
  • Water Governance and Rights-based Approaches to Conservation
  • Governance for ecosytem-based adaptation.

The ELT provides technical assistance upon request to States and non-state actors on a broad range of legal issues relating to the improvement of legislation and their implementation in fields like species, protected areas, water, climate change, coastal and marine areas and resources, etc.
We assist decision makers at multiple levels with legal assessments, advisory services, legislative drafting, and mentoring.

Over the years, examples of States recipients of technical assistance include Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Panamá, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia, to cite but a few.

To enhance our legal services, we have always tried to strengthen local and regional capacities for environmental law, governance and diplomacy through legal studies, training courses and capacity building initiatives.

WCLE Oslo conference 2022
2022 Oslo International Environmental Law Conference

WCEL successfully hosted its 3rd International Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oslo. The conference focused on the Transformative Power of Law: Addressing Global Environmental Challenges.