Artículo | 25 Oct, 2021

The World Commission on Environmental Law at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

The WCEL at the IUCN World Conservation Congress Marseille, 3-11 September 2021...

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Photo: IUCN

The World Commission on Environmental Law at the IUCN World Conservation Congress
Marseille, 3-11 September 2021

Election of a New Chair
The World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Marseille, France witnessed the election of a new chair for the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL), Dr. Christina Voigt, Professor of Law at the University of Oslo. The IUCN Council followed by approving Mr. Ayman Cherkaoui of the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection to serve as Deputy Chair of the Commission.

A Packed Schedule of Impactful Events

From 2-3 September, the International Council on Environmental Law (ICEL), the Normandy Chair for Peace (NCP), and WCEL cooperated in holding a high-level event at the MUCEM in Marseille on Peace with Nature: Laws for Ecological Resilience. The WCEL was strongly represented in the panel on the Environmental Rule of Law - which linked to an event planned for the 5th –  and hosted one of the closing sessions, Toward our Future.

September 4th began with a press conference by a representative of NCP and WCEL Ethics Specialist Group speaking to Legal Actions for Future Generations, followed by a forum session organized by NCP and the WCEL Ethics Specialist Group on The Future of Conservation: Transgenerational Approaches to Ethics, Rights and Duties. This event focused on exploring new frameworks for law and governance that support the voices of nature, future generations, and vulnerable peoples, to help realize global goals on respecting conservation ethics, rights, and responsibilities.

September 5th saw two WCEL forum events, the first co-hosted with Environmental Law Institute and UNEP on the State of Global Environmental Rule of Law Reports: Tracking and Advancing Environmental Rule of Law, exploring the historic, legal, and policy dimensions of the Environmental Rule of Law, and highlighting the UN Environment Programme’s first and (forthcoming) second Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law. The second event, A Whole of Society Approach to Climate Action and Litigation, organized by the WCEL Climate Change Specialist Group, hosted a discussion on the importance of a whole of society approach to climate litigation, given the role of courts, judges, civil society, and youth in promoting a paradigm shift. Prof. Voigt also spoke at the high-level IUCN event on the Post-2020 global biodiversity framework: a recipe for success.

On September 6th, the WCEL organized two forum events, on Challenges in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement and Judges and the Environment: Can Environmental Law Deliver? Judicial Education in Environmental Law. The first featured a dynamic dialogue among high-level environmental law experts on effective the compliance and enforcement of environmental law and policies as critical elements to address the unprecedented global challenges posed by environmental degradation. The second focused on providing insight into the critical role judges, prosecutors, and lawyers play in the protection of the global environment by exploring the transformational power of enforcing the environmental rule law in a post-2020 world. Prof. Voigt spoke at the high-level forum event Deep Time 2029: What must we do in now, in 2021, to successfully address the Nature Emergency by 2050 where speakers ‘looked back’ to 2021 from 2029 to conceive of an inclusive post-2020 GBF that halts the net loss of biodiversity by 2030, and at the pavilion session Reverse the Red - Ecocide and wildlife crime law reforms save species! On how proposed international laws on ecocide could be used to protect and restore species and ecosystems and ‘reverse the red’.

On September 7th, the WCEL organized a forum session on Judges and the Environment: Can Environmental Law Deliver? Protecting Nature in Court, which explored the critical role of the judiciary in the protection of the environment through a series of high-level roundtable judicial dialogues with Supreme Court Justices and globally recognized experts in environmental law. WCEL then co-organized an event with CEESP on environmental defenders, Building Alliances and Solidarity for Environmental Defenders: An Inclusive Dialogue, which explored how IUCN constituencies and different intergovernmental bodies contribute and work together to strengthen the protection of environmental human rights defenders, taking stock of the tools and strategies being deployed by environmental defenders and their support networks - not least in an IUCN context.

WCEL’s events continued into September 8th, when it participated in a pavilion session co-organized with the IUCN Oceania Regional Office, Environmental Law Roundtable Dialogue: The Future of Environmental Law in Oceania, which aimed to address the priority areas identified for advancing environmental law in Oceania during the recent inaugural IUCN Oceania Environmental Law Conference held in conjunction with the 2nd World Environmental Law Congress.

Members’ Assembly

WCEL was most honoured to be entrusted with several important roles throughout the Members’ Assembly. Outgoing Chair Justice Antonio Benjamin chaired the 3rd Sitting of the Members Assembly, including presiding over the elections result, with Steering Committee Member Nilufer Oral serving as election officer and helping to maintain the integrity of the electoral process during a vigorous and contested campaign. Justice Benjamin also presided over important motions and resolutions on online voting rights, establishing an elected Indigenous Councillor position, ensuring the intellectual independence of the Commissions and Secretariat, readmission of former State Members, and renouncing the doctrine of discovery.

Steering Committee Meeting

The final Steering Committee Meeting under the chairmanship of Justice Benjamin was held on the 4th of September 2021 with participation of most of the Steering Committee in person and online. The report of the outgoing committee was presented, along with the incoming chair and the WCEL Mandate for 2021–2024.

Speaker Pitches

Nilufer Oral and Ayman Cherkaoui both provided ‘speaker pitches’ on the Congress website, which consisted of a poster and a brief video presentation made available online for the duration of the Congress.

WCEL Work Moving Forward

In addition to work established under the WCEL Mandate 2021-2024, WCEL was mentioned in numerous resolutions and will engage with them to 2024. These include Resolutions 114 - Integrated solutions to the climate change and biodiversity crises, 115 - Protecting environmental human and peoples' rights defenders and whistleblowers, 117- Actions to strengthen food sovereignty and security of indigenous peoples and peasant communities, 123 - Towards development of an IUCN policy on synthetic biology in relation to nature conservation, 125 - Setting area-based conservation targets based on evidence of what nature and people need to thrive, 128 - Acting for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the ocean beyond national jurisdiction, 130 - Strengthening sustainable tourism’s role in biodiversity conservation and community resilience, 134 - Protecting the Lower Congo River from large hydro-electric dam developments, and 137 - Affirming the right of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to sustainably manage and utilise wild resources in the context of COVID-19.