UN Opens Major Congress to Promote Role of Law in Achieving Sustainable Development Sun, Jun 17, 2012

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Chief Justices, Attorneys General, Chief Prosecutors, and Government Ministers from over 60 countries are set to attend the World Congress.

Rio de Janeiro / Nairobi, 17 June 2012 - A major United Nations congress to examine the positive role justice, law and governance can play to meet international goals on the environment, gets underway today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Organized on the sidelines of the Rio+20 Conference by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability will focus on strengthening the role of law in achieving environmental sustainability and the transition to a green economy.

Chief Justices, Attorneys General, Chief Prosecutors, Auditors-General and Government Ministers from over 60 countries are set to attend the event.

The fifth edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) report, released last week, assessed 90 of the world's most important environmental objectives and found that significant progress had only been made in four.

Some of the legal barriers to achieving these goals include the spreading of responsibilities for the environment among many different institutions at national and international levels, leading to the fragmentation of environmental governance.

The World Congress will examine how new legal approaches can strengthen the effectiveness of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, or the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes, and, overall, support sustainability through stronger legal responses to environmental pressures.

The institutional framework for sustainable development is one of two key themes of the Rio+20 Conference, the other being the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The World Congress will culminate in the formulation of an outcome document, which will be directly presented to world governments and other negotiators at Rio+20.

This message to Rio+20 is expected to outline principles for the advancement of justice, governance and law for environmental sustainability and to call for a more permanent body that can continue efforts to support environmental sustainability through law, justice and governance under the auspices of UNEP and partner organisations.  

Key issues to be addressed at the four-day event include: transnational environmental crime, areas beyond national jurisdiction, the fragmentation of current environmental governance, links between human rights law and environmental law, and improving public participation and access to justice.

"UNEP's recent GEO-5 report, and other studies, show in unequivocal terms that current consumption and production patterns are no longer sustainable and that decisive action is needed to prevent critical environmental thresholds from being passed," said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, at the opening ceremony of the World Congress held in Rio de Janeiro's Supreme Court.  

"The World Congress, together with negotiators at Rio+20, can be a key part of this solution, by strengthening the links between social justice and environmental sustainability, and advocating for sustainable development that is founded on justice and good governance. It is only through a strengthened framework for sustainable development that the social, environmental and economic benefits of a green economy can be realized."

The Government of Brazil, along with members of the country's judiciary and auditing community, are supporting the World Congress.

Organizations active across the entire environmental legal spectrum - from law-making to implementation and enforcement - will also be involved in the event. They include the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (UNECE). .

From 17 to 20 June, participants will address three main areas:

  • The Future of Environmental Law

The World Congress will focus on the role of environmental law in promoting the goals of a Green Economy. Other issues to be covered include the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the global commons such as the High Seas and combating transnational environmental crime and other illegal activities with transboundary effects.

  • New Approaches to Social Justice and Environmental Sustainability

The congress will discuss ways to further strengthen the operational links between social justice, equity, environment and development in the further development and implementation of international and national environmental law. New approaches could include: more effective tools to ensure access to information, public participation and access to justice and the legal dimensions of accounting for natural capital in the context of a green economy.

  • Improving Effectiveness of Environmental Governance at national, regional and global levels

The congress will deliberate on ways to overcome the fragmentation of environmental governance. Among the measures to be discussed are the role of courts and evolving environmental jurisprudence, the requirement for effective and implementable laws, training for a wide range of legal practitioners, and stronger arrangements at the global level to look after the environmental dimension of sustainable development.

Beyond Rio+20, the long term objective of the World Congress is to become an important platform in strengthening environmental laws and governance frameworks for the future implementation of environmental and sustainability law and policy.

Notes to Editors

The World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability builds on the work of the Global Judges Symposium, which was organized by UNEP during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and brought together Chief Justices from around the world. The congress will create an even broader and more decisive platform for national legal stakeholders and their contributions to environmental sustainability.

The Presidency of the World Congress is composed as follows:

  • the Hon. Mr. Carlos Ayres Britto,Chief Justice, Constitutional Court of Brazil (STF)
  • the Hon. YAA Tan Sri Arifin Bin Zakaria, Chief Justice of Malaysia
  • the Hon. Mr. Luis Ricardo Lorenzetti, Chief Justice of Argentina
  • the Hon. Dr. Roberto Monteiro Gurgel Santos, Attorney-General of Brazil

Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Judge of the High Court of Brazil (STJ) is the Secretary-General of the congress.

The World Congress is co-hosted by the Associação dos Magistrados do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, the Ministério Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, and the Getulio Vargas Foundation

More information on the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability is available at: http://www.unep.org/DELC/worldcongress/

More information on UNEP's Division of Environmental Law and Conventions is available at: http://www.unep.org/delc

Preparations for the World Congress began with a first Preparatory Meeting, held last year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A Second Preparatory Meeting will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 23 - 24 April 2012, before the main event in Brazil in June.

Media Contacts:

Nick Nuttall, Acting Director, UNEP Division of Communication and Public Information and Spokesperson, Tel: +55 11 6593 8058 / +254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Bryan Coll, UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi), Tel. +254 207623088, Mobile: +254 731666214, E-mail: unepnewsdesk@unep.org

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