DELC

Division of Environmental Law and Conventions

Judges Programme

BACKGROUND

The Judiciary is a crucial partner in the development, interpretation, implementation and enforcement of environmental law. Courts of Law of many countries have demonstrated sensitivity to promoting the rule of law in the field of sustainable development through their judgements and pronouncements, e.g. through applying international environmental law principles such as the polluter pays principle, the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity.

OVERVIEW OF LEGAL ISSUES

In recent years UNEP has paid increasing attention to the judiciary and other legal stakeholders as focal point for the promotion of environmental law at the national level. DELC has thus started a Judges Programme, targeted at the more specific needs of judicial stakeholders. The initiative is based on the idea that the role of the Judiciary is fundamental in the promotion of compliance with and enforcement of international and national environmental law. It aims at promoting judiciary networking, sharing of legal information, and harmonisation of the approach to the implementation of global and regional instruments. Courts of Law of many countries have demonstrated sensitivity to promoting the rule of law in the field of sustainable development through their judgements and pronouncements, e.g. through applying international environmental law principles such as the polluter pays principle, the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity. DELC’s commitment to this end is based on the specific mandate provided for in the Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law for the First Decade of the Twenty-first Century (MontevideoProgramme III). The Programme, adopted in 2001, identifies the Judiciary as one of the key target groups for capacity building activities in the field of environmental law. The programme, set out in a Road Map, is implemented by the DELC in collaboration with relevant Divisions and Regional Offices of UNEP as well as several partner agencies.

FOCUS OF DELC'S WORK

DELC ’s work, focusing on the judiciary, commenced with the organisation of Regional Judges Symposia on environmental law, sustainable development and the role of the Judiciary. Based on the outcome of these Symposia, UNEP convened the Global Judges Symposium on Sustainable Development and the Role of Law in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 18-20 August 2002, as a parallel event to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The outcome of the Global Judges Symposium, the Johannesburg Principles on the Role of Law and Sustainable Development , was presented to the UN Secretary General and to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). Following the Global Judges Symposium, DELC prepared a practical plan of work, and organised a meeting of a small group of judges representative of the world’s legal systems and regions, to secure their advice on the plan of work. The meeting, the Judges Ad Hoc Meeting for the Development of a Plan of Work as a Follow-Up to the Global Judges Symposium Relating to Capacity Building of Judges, Prosecutors, and Other Legal Stakeholders, was held in Nairobi, Kenya one week before the 22nd session of the Governing Council of UNEP. 

The 22nd session of the Governing Council, held in Nairobi on 3-7 February 2003, endorsed UNEP’s commitment in this field in its decision 22/17 n Governance and Law, part II, A on Follow-up to the Global Judges Symposium focusing on capacity-building in the area of environmental law. To implement UNEP Governing Council decision 22/17 II(A) UNEP has embarked upon an extensive work programme (the Global Judges Programme), developed and carried out with the advise and guidance of a UNEP Ad hoc Advisory Group of Chief Justices and other Judges drawn from around the world, headed by the Chief Justice of South Africa.

INTENDED OUTCOMES

The goal of this programme of work is for DELC to carry out, on a cohesive, structured and sustained basis, national activities under the direction and guidance of the respective Chief Justices, for strengthening the role of the judiciary in securing environmental governance, adherence to the rule of law and the effective implementation of national environmental policies, laws and regulations including the national level implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. Several governments, including the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway have provided significant financial support to UNEP for the implementation of this programme of work.

These national programmes of work are implemented at the national level by the Chief Justices and the respective national judicial training institutions, and are supported by UNEP in partnership with a global alliance of partners, including the World Bank Institute, the United Nations University, UNITAR, IUCN, the global academia and regional and national institutions with relevant capabilities in the area of environmental law, training and education.

The programme also includes the development of a series of environmental law training materials, to be translated into the official languages of the UN. These materials include: