ICEL visits the International Law Commission in Geneva


Nick Robinson (ICEL Executive Governor) and Koh Kheng-Lian (ICEL Treasurer) visiting the UN Office in Geneva for the 69th session of the UN International Law Commission

The International Council of Environmental Law (ICEL) celebrated its annual dinner event for the members of the International Law Commission of the United Nations during its 69th session in Geneva on 19 July 2017.

Last year, ICEL’s traditional dinner event in Geneva with members of the UN International Law Commission was cancelled because of the illness of its Executive Governor, Wolfgang Burhenne, who sadly passed away in January 2017 at the venerable age of 92. The ICEL members present at his memorial, held in March at his home near Bonn, Germany, agreed to continue the outstanding work carried out by Wolfgang Burhenne since ICEL‘s creation in 1969.

One of the less known, yet very effective and much appreciated, events Wolfgang Burhenne organized and attended religiously was the annual dinner ICEL organised during the International Law Commission (ILC) working sessions at the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG). Over the years, this summer event has become part of the ILC Geneva schedule and a much awaited evening of constructive conversation on environmental topics, while enjoying a pleasant meal together. The progressive development of international law being discussed between eminent international lawyers is a great opportunity for ICEL to participate in the exchange of views on the current and emerging topics of environmental law.

It was therefore decided to continue the decades-old tradition the dinner event was held on 19 July 2017 at the restaurant Relais de Chambésy, its traditional venue not far from the United Nations in Geneva. Four members of ICEL’s newly established Bureau were present: Nick Robinson, the new Executive Governor who came especially from the United States, Koh Kheng-Lian, the Treasurer travelling from Singapore, Eckard Rehbinder from Frankfurt, and Milena Bellini Sheppard, ICEL representative to the UN in Geneva along with her husband David Sheppard. The ILC members who attended the dinner were impressed by the ICEL representatives’ dedication, knowledge, and determination in continuing Wolfgang Burhenne’s work.

Prior to the dinner, Nick Robinson, Koh Kheng-Lian, and Milena Bellini Sheppard attended the ILC meeting at the Palais des Nations. Their presence was acknowledged by the President who spoke about Wolfgang Burhenne’s commitment to environmental law and thanked ICEL for its continued support and encouragement of the ILC’s work.

The dinner was attended by 2 ILC legal officers, 15 ILC members - some of whom knew Wolfgang Burhenne personally from previous years whilst others were newly elected in November 2016 and were attending the event for the first time. There was also a surprise participant, Dr. Kennedy Gastorn, the Secretary General of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO), based in New Dehli, India. He had been invited to give a presentation about AALCO at the ILC session that afternoon and Nilufer Oral, Member of the Steering Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) and ILC Member, had the great idea to invite him to the dinner event.

ICEL and AALCO have an ongoing memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation, so the presence of Kennedy Gastorn at the dinner gave Nick Robinson the opportunity to make plans for future activities between the two organisations. Plans were also made for a get together with a dinner and side events in New York next year on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the ILC. Their 70th session in May 2018 will be held at the UN headquarters in New York.

During the dinner, ILC member Eduardo Valencia Ospina, from Colombia, addressed the gathering and spoke highly of ICEL and its founder Wolfgang Burhenne, while welcoming the new Executive Governor and Bureau . Nick Robinson also paid tribute to Wolfgang Burhenne, spoke about the recent changes in ICEL, and acknowledged the important work of the ILC over the past and impending years. It was a friendly gathering of lawyers from as many nationalities as there were participants: 21 countries were represented around the table! A perfect global meeting of legal minds.

by Milena Bellini Sheppard

ICEL Representative to the United Nations Office Geneva

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