Conference Highlights Need to Introduce Environmental Law to Higher Education Curricula in the Middle East
By Dr. Damilola S. Olawuyi - When leading international law scholars convened in Doha, Qatar for the first Middle East Environmental Law Scholars’ conference hosted by the College of Law and Public Policy (CLPP) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) earlier this month, they set out to determine how academic facilitators can incorporate environmental law into university curricula – a recent development for the region.
Photo: Dr. Olawuyi
The conference, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme as well as the Qatar National Research Fund, presented an unprecedented opportunity for law experts, practitioners and scholars from Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East to collectively brainstorm the most effective means of holistically integrating environmental law teaching into universities in the Arab region.
In her opening address, Ms. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, director of the law division at the UN Environment Programme, highlighted the crucial role of including the subject in higher education curricula. “This gathering presents an opportunity to further enhance teaching, learning and research on environmental law in the Middle East region” she said.
“If human society is to stay in the bounds of its ecological threshold, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected and enforced. Environmental laws have grown dramatically over the last few decades as countries have come to understand the vital linkages between environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion and security.
“Our key focus is on academic institutions because this is where the next generation prepares to become world leaders, so it’s imperative that we focus on the mainstream and institutionalization of environmental law as a subject at university level, so that the next generation is able to secure a sustainable future.”
Similarly, in her keynote lecture, Nilufer Oral, member of the United Nations International Law Commission and WCEL Member, highlighted how Middle East environmental law scholars can benefit from diverse international resources, networks and programs to enhance capacity for low carbon energy transition in the region. According to her, "existing commitments to promote environmental education need to be further strengthened and implemented for an effective transition to the new low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient development model."
The ensuing discussions in the four workshops at the conference featured presentations by eminent scholars from Canada, France, United Kingdom, United States, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, as well as regional experts from across the Arab region. Other collaborators at the conference included representatives of LexisNexis Middle East & North Africa, Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), as well as His Excellency Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (ABHA Foundation), Qatar.
A significant outcome of the conference was the official inauguration of the Association for Environmental Law Lecturers in Middle East and. North African Universities (ASELLMU) as an umbrella association for all full-time academics who conduct research, or teach environment-related law courses at an academic institution in the MENA region. According to Dr. Damilola Olawuyi, the founding chair of ASELLMU, "as law professors, we have prominent roles to play to unearth innovative legal solutions to the various environmental challenges facing the region. ASELLMU provides a professional network to exchange ideas, teaching material, pedagogy, best practices, and to bring environmental law lecturers together more often to develop collaborative research projects."
ASELLMU’s next conference is scheduled to hold in Casablanca, Morocco in 2019. Furthermore, a steering committee consisting of environmental law "champions" from 10 countries in the MENA region was inaugurated.
Dr. Susan L. Karamanian, dean of CLPP closed the conference "At the CLPP, our mission is to deliver cutting edge training and research that support the energy innovation priorities of the Qatar National Vision 2030. We hope to continue to work with the UN Environment as well as other global stakeholders to advance capacity building in this important area" she concluded.