Story | 13 Jan, 2018

Launch of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA): From Environmental Law to Ecological Law

The Ecological Law and Governance Association was launched on October 13, 2017 at the University of Siena (Italy). The founding document for the Association is the Oslo Manifesto, created at a 2016 workshop of the Ethics Specialist Group of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law. 

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Participants gather in Siena (Italy) for the launch of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA)

Photo: Photo: IUCN WCEL Ethics SG

The Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA) was launched on October 13, 2017 at the University of Siena (Italy) at the Santa Chiara Lab. The ELGA is created as an umbrella organization to the many local, national, and international organizations and governments around the world that are seeking to transform the current human-centered, growth-focused paradigm, to an Earth-centered ‘ecological law and governance’ paradigm. Prior to the launch, there was a two-day working group meeting that brought together 25 experts (in law, philosophy, science, land use planning, and journalism) from 15 countries to provide input into the 2018-2020 ELGA Strategy Plan. ELGA’s overall purpose is to:

  1. Build a strong, global network of professionals and practitioners and provide a platform for them to advance ecological law;
  2. Create and disseminate diverse forms of knowledge about ecological law and governance;
  3. Support capacity-building for organizations and governments;
  4. Support capacity-building for lawyers and other disciplines; and
  5. Ultimately influence decision-makers at all levels of governance. It is composed of individual members chaired by a Steering Committee of eight leaders* in international environmental law from around the world. ELGA is also coordinating regional and local groups with representatives from government, civil society, and academia.

The launch was opened by Rector Francesco Frati of the University of Siena, followed by a welcome address from the Siena Town Councillor for Environmental Protection Paolo Mazzini (on behalf of the Mayor of Siena Bruno Valentini). Maria Mercedes Sanchez, coordinator of the UN Harmony with Nature initiative, provided the Keynote Address. She spoke of the natural alliance between ELGA and the UN Harmony with Nature Initiative, which advances earth-centered law and the rights of nature. Additional presentations focused on the practical and theoretical foundations of ELGA, its partners, its principles, and the role of ethics in ecological law and governance. It was highlighted throughout the working days and the launch that applied ethics was the main source of ecological law. IUCN WCEL Chair, Honorable Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, opened the final session, A Way Forward, on the importance of new, actionable frameworks in ecological law. The University of Siena welcomed ELGA to hold future gatherings at the University in order to build upon the association’s origins in Siena.

The Oslo Manifesto, which guides ELGA, recognizes that environmental law is anthropocentric, fragmented, and reductionist, rooted in modern Western jurisprudence, with origins in religious anthropocentrism, Cartesian dualism, philosophical individualism, and ethical utilitarianism. This approach has not secured the physical and biological conditions upon which all life depends. Therefore, ELGA looks beyond existing legal systems and supports analysis of the root causes of the ecological crisis, and the transformative work that needs to happen to build a new, ecologically-focused governance system. It is global (looks at common thinking) but is rooted in local communities; and it respects all life, not just human life. As the Oslo Manifesto was chartered at a meeting of the WCEL Ethics Specialist Group, and as many members of WCEL and the Specialist Group are also members ELGA, ELGA will always hold a close, foundational relationship with WCEL. The work directly advances IUCN Resolutions related to ethics, the Earth Charter, and the Biosphere Ethics Initiative.

Please visit to sign your name to the Oslo Manifesto and become part of ELGA’s mailing list. You are encouraged to contact the author, Kathryn Gwiazdon, at with any questions.

For additional information on some of the people and organizations that helped form ELGA, please visit:

*Steering Committee members:

  • ELGA Chair, Prof. Klaus Bosselmann (NZ)
  • ELGA Vice-Chair, Prof. Massimiliano Montini (IT)
  • Prof. Peter Burdon (AUS)
  • Prof. Cristiane Derani (BR)
  • Prof. Geoffrey Garver (CAN)
  • Kathryn Gwiazdon, Esq. (USA)
  • Dr. Michelle Maloney (AUS)
  • Lisa Mead (UK)

by Kathryn Gwiazdon: Member (Deputy Chair 2008-2012), IUCN WCEL Ethics Specialist Group; Executive Director, Center for Environmental Ethics and Law; Steering Committee Member, ELGA