Story | 15 Jul, 2021

Advancing Environmental Law in the Pacific: IUCN hosts Inaugural Oceania Environmental Law Conference

Over one hundred participants attended the virtual official opening of the Inaugural IUCN Oceania Environmental Law Conference held in conjunction with the 2nd World Environmental Law Congress earlier yesterday. 

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Photo: Stuart Chape

IUCN Oceania, in partnership with the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL), the United States Embassy in Fiji, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, European Union, Asian Development Bank, Environmental Defenders Office, Pacific Network for Environmental Law and the Environmental Law Associations for Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, streamed the event to participants from across the region and around the globe yesterday morning.

Delivering their addresses, the keynote speakers highlighted the significance of Environmental Law and its major role in conservation and sustainable development in Pacific Islands.

We all know that the climate and biodiversity crisis are severely affecting the islands of Oceania, but understanding these threats only take us so far. We must act on our knowledge. And here, Environmental Law has a critical role to play. Law is fundamental to the effective governance of natural resources for the benefit of people and nature. In IUCN this is represented in our Mission. A Just World that values and Conserves Nature”, said Dr Grethel Aguilar, Deputy Director of IUCN

Time is of essence. We need to move now. In this regard, this Conference is very timely. It will allow us to think outside the box and think deeper”, said Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy, Ministry for Waterways and Environment for Fiji.

This Conference also happens during the COVID-19 pandemic and as we continue to feel the effects of this pandemic, I believe this conference is even more important as the whole word looks towards solutions that will enable all of us to build a better, brighter and fairer future”, said Mr Arnold Kreilhuber, Acting Director of the Law Division of UNEP.

Nature is a central element of Pacific Island identity and society. It provides the foundation of the social, cultural and economic livelihoods of people throughout the region. Natural resources across the Pacific Islands are often customarily owned, governed and managed by local communities, in partnership with government.

The success of Environmental Law is linked to deep and strong partnerships between governments and local stakeholders,” reiterated Mr Tony Greubel, Charge d’Affaires, United States Embassy in Fiji.

We cannot underestimate the importance of Environmental Law. There can be no protection of the environment without law”, stressed Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Chair of IUCN WCEL.

Keynote Address for the IUCN Environmental Law Conference       Photo: Keynote Address for the IUCN Environmental Law Conference

Held from the 14 to 16 of July, the three-day event brings together Environmental Law experts, judges, lawyers, practitioners, conservationists, project managers, government and civil society representatives to share experiences of the continued challenges that the Pacific Island Countries continue to face in protecting natural resources through law and policy.

The IUCN Oceania Environmental Law Conference has two face-to-face hubs in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu hosted by the Solomon Islands Environmental Law Association and Vanuatu Environmental Law Associations respectively and is one of five regional hybrid events that will take place in 2021.

Over seven hundred participants have registered for the three-day event.

To learn more about the Conference and stream the different sessions, visit