Law Division

Progressive Development of Environmental Law


One of the critical challenges facing all environmental issues is the need develop or enhance national and international laws to effectively and equitably protect, manage and conserve natural resources and living species for current and future generations. In this respect, environmental laws provide the platform on which institutions, policies, and compliance/enforcement regimes at different levels can be built in order to regulate all human uses and interactions with the environment.


Environmental law is a rapidly evolving and constantly changing legal field. Due to the nature of environmental issues in so far as our understanding of natural resources and biodiversity and the impact we are having on all facets of the environment is always improving, the legal frameworks which govern planning, use and management of the environment must also adapt accordingly. 

Some of the key challenges that exist for the progressive development of environmental law are the:

  • Excessive time lags between scientific understanding of environmental issues and corresponding development of appropriate laws at the national, international and regional levels;

  • Outdated or inadequate national legislation or international agreements to effectively address certain environmental issues;

  • Lack of environmental laws to adequately preserve and protect natural resources and ecosystems, especially in developing countries.
  • Insufficient capacity to implement environmental laws, especially in developing countries.


Under the overall framework of the Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law (Montevideo Programme), DELC’s work is broadly aimed at:

  • Catalyzing progressive development of environmental law aiming at sustainable development.
  • Providing legal technical assistance and capacity-building training to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to strengthen their capacity to develop and enforce environmental law.
  • Making information on environmental law accessible through on-line environmental law data base and publications in order to promote wider appreciation of environmental law. 


In seeking to achieve the above aims, DELC intends to:

  • Assist Governments, particularly those of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in the development of international legal instruments in the field of the environment;
  • Encourage international action to address gaps and weaknesses in existing international environmental law and to respond to new environmental challenges;
  • Develop and promote the development of soft law instruments, such as codes of conduct and guidelines;
  • Provide training in environmental law matters and promote of education in the same field, including Judges Programmes; and,
  • Enhance information on environmental law through production and dissemination of environmental law publications and collection and dissemination of information through other means.

Montevideo Program

Fourth Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law (PDF)

Twenty-fifth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Nairobi, 16–20 February 2009

UNEP Access to Information Policy Dialogue

Watch on YouTube