Environmental Rule of Law

15 May 2014, By Arnold Kreilhuber, Legal Officer, Division of Environmental Law & Conventions

Robust laws, integrated governance structures, enhanced accountability and coordinated enforcement approaches are needed to overcome the world’s pressing environmental challenges and toward the realization of sustainable development founded on open, transparent, accountable, just, as well as dependable legal orders and governance systems.

UNEP’s work to promote and further develop ‘environmental rule of law’ following the UNEP World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in 2012 includes the engagement of Chief Justices, Attorneys General, Judges, Prosecutors, Auditors General, leading legal scholars, practitioners and Government experts. There are many strengths and successes within the legal community, particularly in the role of the judiciary, in championing environmental law and sustainable development and continued contributions are needed to put the core elements of environmental rule of law into action. These elements include adequate and implementable laws, access to justice and information, public participation, accountability, transparency, liability for environmental damage, fair and just enforcement, and human rights.

Highlighting the need for debates as to how the rule of law in the field of environment can be bolstered are illegal activities harming the environment. These are fast evolving and growing in sophistication. They also undermine the achievement of all dimensions of sustainable development and environmental sustainability as well as the rule of law. Led by vast financial gains and facilitated by a low risk of detection and scarce conviction rates, criminal networks and organized criminal groups are becoming increasingly interested in such illicit, and often transnational, activities - from illegal trade in protected species; smuggling of ozone depleting substances; illicit trade in hazardous waste; illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and illegal logging and trade in timber.

On the occasion of the first session of UNEA, ‘Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development - A Global Symposium on Environmental Rule of Law’ invites Chief Justices, Attorneys General, experts within the legal and auditing communities, and Government representatives, to discuss the ways and means by which the further development and implementation of environmental rule of law can help ensure just and sustainable development outcomes.

History will judge us harshly if we don’t act in defense of wildlife now. It is in the run up to the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, that we must go wild for wildlife, by urging our leaders to act decisively in combatting wildlife crimes.

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