Tribute to Polly Higgins

By Klaus Bosselmann - The global conservation movement has lost one of its most inspiring figures. It is with great sadness we announce that Polly Higgins has passed away on 21 April 2019 aged 50.

Polly Higgins

Polly Higgins was the world’s leading authority on ecocide, i.e. the attempt to criminalize human behaviour causing excessive damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems of a given territory. In 2010 Polly proposed to the United Nations to make ecocide a fifth Crime Against Peace (next to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression). Ever since Polly led a worldwide campaign that included lobbying of the UN and member states, public lectures, mock trials, books (including “Eradicating Ecocide”), the establishment of a trust fund for “Earth Protectors” and numerous other initiatives. She was a relentless champion of changing broken laws - internationally and nationally - that have failed so miserably to protect the global environment and the integrity of planetary ecosystems.

Polly was closely associated with the WCEL Ethics Specialist Group and its projects. Ethically motivated and a keen advocate of legal transformation, she promoted the Earth Charter at any possible occasion, was a co-founder of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (speaking at the launching conference in October 2017), and an enthusiastic supporter of the Hague Principles of Responsibilities for Human Rights and Earth Trusteeship. At the recent launch of the “Hague Principles” on 10 December 2018 in the Peace Palace, The Hague, Polly gave a speech that impressed delegates of over 100 legal networks with her sharp legal mind and deeply committed soul. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that only a few months later she was diagnosed with incurable cancer.

Polly has inspired many environmental lawyers, not the least within WCEL, and possibly the entire young generation of environmental activists and legal experts. Her legacy to us all is that every single person can - and must - work for the transformation of laws, policies and institutions.

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