Highlights of the WCEL Steering Committee Meeting: Rio de Janeiro, December 2017

The WCEL Steering Committee convened a joint meeting with its Specialist Group Chairs, IUCN Commission Chairs, IUCN Councilors, and Honored Guests from 7-10 December 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

WCEL SC Meeting Dec. 2017

The joint meeting under the WCEL Steering Committee was graciously hosted from 7-10 December by the Association of State Judges of Rio de Janeiro (AMAERJ) and the State Supreme Court of Rio de Janeiro. During formal meetings, the Steering Committee approved new WCEL Members; agreed to conclude an MoU with the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests; focused on how to enhance membership contributions in priority activities; further planned WCEL's contributions to the 8th World Water Forum with substantial focus on the proposed “Brasilia Declaration of Judges on Water Justice;" and gathered input for organizing the 2nd World Environmental Law Congress in 2020.

The meetings started with an informal session on 7 December to receive input on WCEL’s priority activities over the next three years including maximizing the work of its Specialist Groups, operationalizing the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment, supporting the "Global Pact for the Environment" initiative, and promoting the environmental rule of law around the world. Participants further discussed the next day's High-Level Preparatory Meetings for the WCEL-coordinated "Judges & Prosecutors Subprocess" of the 8th World Water Forum and benefitted from presentations by Ayman Rabi (IUCN Councilor and Chair of the IUCN Council Finance and Audit Committee) on water resource issues in Palestine and Angela Andrade (Chair of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM)) on the Red List of Ecosystems


On 8 December, WCEL and partners held two high-level events in Rio in preparation for the “Judges & Prosecutors Subprocess”. In the morning, an invitation-only “International Colloquium “Sharing Water”  was held at the Museum of the Future. In the afternoon, a public session - “International Colloquium on Water Law” - took place in the grand ceremonial courtroom of the Supreme Court of the State of Rio de Janeiro.  Over both sessions, WCEL and partners hosted more than fifty distinguished participants from nineteen countries to contribute their legal and technical expertise to a discussion of achieving the equitable protection, management, and restoration of global water resources. These events also helped WCEL fulfill IUCN Programme Global Result 3 (for healthy ecosystems including watersheds), and Sustainable Development Goals 6 (Water) and 16 (Governance). With conclusion of these events, WCEL now enters a new stage of advanced planning for the Subprocess. Three days of high-level sessions are now being planned from 19-21 March in Brasilia to feature over fifty senior judges and prosecutors from around the world contributing their legal and technical expertise.


The Steering Committee continued meetings on 9-10 December with Specialist Group Chairs, IUCN Commission Chairs, IUCN Councilors, and Honored Guests. The twenty-one participants, including Founding Members of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment, convened at the Lodge of the Association of State Judges of Rio de Janeiro (AMAERJ) in the Rio neighborhood of “Recreio dos Bandeirantes” to exchange ideas and coordinate efforts to further bolster legal and policy solutions for the conservation of nature. Highlights of decisions made by the Steering Committee include:

  • Approval of 33 new members, and 59 membership renewals bringing the total WCEL membership to 821
  • Establishment of a Joint Task Force, in collaboration with the Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), to use the Amazon as a test case for reviewing the legal implications of concepts applied in the Red List on Ecosystems
  • Plans to hold events to increase knowledge about the importance of the initiative from the Government of France to reach agreement under the UN General Assembly on a “Global Pact for the Environment”
  • Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between WCEL and the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests. The MoU is to promote cooperation and collaboration particularly in the interest of strengthening legal aspects of the protection of global forests, including investigation, preparation, and dissemination of forest best-practice legal systems, such as a “Model Forest Act” to inform the drafting and updating of forest legislation globally
  • A request to each WCEL Specialist Group to author written contributions every six months to publicize developments of the work of their groups and members work through the WCEL website
  • The creation of a new section of the WCEL website for publishing ongoing country reports from members highlighting interesting environmental law-related developments at national levels
  • Starting a bi-weekly “Update from the Commission” to be distributed through the WCEL Listserv
  • Establishment of the Polar Law Task Force
  • Appointment of Kanyinke Sena as Chair of the “Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Law Joint Specialist Group” between WCEL and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP)
  • Approval of revised guidelines for Specialist Group Terms of Reference
  • Revisions to the online membership application, improving membership information management, and clarifying procedures for appointing members to the WCEL Specialist Groups
  • Refining the draft WCEL Quadrennial and Annual Work Plans in view to refined criteria including signature activities, undertaking work that is both relevant and achievable, and division of labor based on respective responsibilities of WCEL and the IUCN Environmental Law Centre
  • Beginning celebrations of the 35th Anniversary of the World Charter for Nature (adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on 28 October 1982) through creation of a new section on the WCEL website, promotion of a celebration at the next meeting of the IUCN Council, and cooperation with partners to organize a one-day event at UN Headquarters
  • Urgently preparing a motion to the IUCN Council providing specifics for drafting and adopting an official policy on environmental defenders and an action plan of implementation
  • Maintaining the practice of convening a meeting of the WCEL Steering Committee and Chairs of the Specialist Groups every two years and support for Specialist Groups as they are re-established
  • Organizing a formal meeting of the Steering Committee in the first part of 2018 to focus on finalizing a “WCEL Strategic Platform” covering multiple years beyond the regular IUCN quadrennial cycle.
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