Remarks by Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the Launch of the International Advisory Council for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability Fri, Dec 7, 2012

Dear Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza,

Dear Members of the International Advisory Council for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to speak to you on this very special occasion and in such a magnificent venue, surrounded by these wonderful artworks.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you, Mr. Secretary General, and the Organization of American States for opening the doors of the Art Museum of the Americas for this event and for according such a warm welcome to us all.

Earlier this year in Brazil - and in parallel to the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development - UNEP and partners organized the World Congress for Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.

Over 250 of the world's Chief Justices, Attorneys General and Auditors General were in attendance, representing over 60 countries.  

The first ever event of its kind on such a scale, the Congress underlined the vital role of law in achieving inclusive sustainable development for all. 

Delegates voiced a clear message that without adherence to the rule of law, without open, just and dependable legal orders, the outcomes of Rio+20 - or, indeed, any environmental agreements or summits - cannot be implemented.

For the first time, Chief Justices, Attorneys General and Auditors General declared their commitment at the World Congress to work together to build and support the capacity of courts and tribunals - as well as prosecutors and auditors - to implement environmental law and to exchange best practices in order to achieve environmental sustainability.

Just before Rio+20, UNEP released the fifth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) - the UN's most comprehensive study on the state of the global environment.

It assessed 90 of the world's most important environmental goals, and found that significant progress had only been made in four.

The report warns that if humanity does not urgently change its ways, several critical thresholds may be exceeded - beyond which abrupt and irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet could occur.

A most serious warning indeed.

Importantly, the report said that weak environmental laws and poor accountability were contributing to this lack of progress.

Other barriers include the spreading of responsibilities for the environment among many different institutions at national and international levels. This leads to the fragmentation of environmental governance and impedes efficient responses to environmental challenges.

With these challenges in mind, the World Congress called for an international network to be created that can support efforts to achieve sustainability through stronger legal responses to environmental pressures.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today we have the pleasure to present to you the result of that decision and to formally inaugurate the International Advisory Council for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.

This new council will be tasked with engaging the legal and auditing community worldwide, supporting the development and implementation of environmental law at all levels, and encouraging the further expansion of environmental jurisprudence.

It will also work to improve the sharing of information, data and technical assistance to support governments in their efforts to strengthen the legal framework of sustainable development.

The Council will collaborate with a range of partners including academia, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, governments, and others, to improve collaboration on environmental law, governance and justice.

It will give renewed impetus to efforts to secure the solid legal foundations upon which an inclusive, low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy can be built.

Environmental law has left its mark on the world. It has - and continues to - change our relationship with the natural environment and its resources.

Today, the right to a clean and healthy environment is included in many national constitutions.

And in a remarkably short period of time hundreds of bilateral and multilateral agreements - covering issues from biodiversity, climate change, trade in endangered species and a host of other issues - have been concluded, and in turn brought about profound challenges in national legal systems.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol - one of the greatest success stories of international environmental law. 

The Montreal Protocol is one of the most widely ratified treaties in United Nations history, and has enabled reductions of over 98 per cent of all global production and consumption of controlled ozone-depleting substances.

As well as protecting the atmosphere, the Montreal Protocol is also estimated to have prevented 19 million cases of non-melanoma cancer and 130 million cases of eye cataracts.

It is a shining example of what can be achieved through international cooperation on the environment, and effective legislation and auditing to back up multilateral agreements.

But environmental law still faces many challenges to realize its full potential in bringing about sustainable development, achieving the eradication of hunger, and supporting inclusive economic growth.

Key questions include:

In environmental law, how can we tackle transnational environmental crime, or address environment issues in the so-called global commons, such as the high seas?

Regarding justice, how can we guarantee equal access to ecosystem services - which support billions of livelihoods worldwide - for all people? 

Providing solutions to these questions will require the support and guidance of the judicial, legal and auditing professions in greater number - as well as the support and guidance from you, ladies and gentlemen: the policy makers, the diplomats, the representatives of non-governmental organizations, and everyone who cares about environmental law, the rule of law and the future of our planet.

In meeting the environmental challenges of a world of nine billion people by 2050, promoting environmental rights, environmental law and jurisprudence and environmental governance is  perhaps more important than ever

And as the World Congress recognized, social justice must go hand-in-hand with efforts to improve environmental sustainability

The World Congress and Rio+20 have infused new life into debates about the role of law in the pursuit of sustainable development and the transition to an inclusive green economy.

The new International Advisory Council for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability can capitalize on this momentum.

Through the advocacy and guidance it will provide to UNEP and our partners, together we can bring about transformational change based on sound and effective environmental law to an increasing number of societies and communities.  

UNEP feels very privileged to have gained the support of the nine eminent members of the council, all of whom have been closely involved in furthering the cause of robust environmental justice, governance and law.

With its expertise and global reach, the new council will be a powerful advocate for law, justice and good governance.

Please join me in wishing the Council and its members every success in their important work and to us all in continuing the advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.

Thank you very much

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