The first meeting of the International Advisory Council for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability took place today under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at the headquarters of the hemispheric institution.
The Council, composed of senior legal and environmental authorities and experts from around the world, aims to act as a global voice for environmental sustainability, giving guidance to UNEP, the OAS and other organizations on the implementation of the Rio +20 Declaration on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.
The principles of the Rio+20 Declaration, such as the non-regressive nature of environmental laws, and the support for an institutional framework that leads to environmental sustainability in the 21st Century, are aligned with some OAS mandates resulting from the Summits of the Americas Process, the General Assembly and regional ministerial meetings. OAS mandates in this area focus on the need for the exchange of experiences among Member States, promoting access to environmental information, and increasing the capacity of the Judiciary and other key stakeholders in the chain of enforcement of environmental law.
At the Council’s presentation, the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, mentioned that at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009, the region’s Heads of State and Government committed to follow a set of principles similar to those outlined at the Rio+20 Declaration, such us “advancing conservation efforts and strengthening, implementing and effectively enforcing national environmental laws, in accordance with their sustainable development priorities and international law.”
Insulza highlighted that “we are leading the way on this important subject through the inauguration of this Council that will assist our mission of conflict prevention and advancing environmental sustainability through strengthening institutional frameworks, accountability and advancing public participation, all of them central elements of democracy.”
The head of the OAS emphasized that two thirds of the Council members “come from our hemisphere, a region that is continuously working to enhance the rule of law, governance and ultimately environmental sustainability.” Addressing Council members, he said, “I welcome your guidance on these issues and the opportunity to work with all of you to benefit our Member States in enhancing the role of environmental law in sustainable development.”
On behalf of UNEP, Bakary Kante, Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, said the meeting represented “a historic opportunity” in which the UN body is “very happy to partner with the OAS.” “The outcome of the gathering is that we find ourselves facing a set of challenges and we have to deliver more. We have met in Washington, DC, to be concrete.”
The UN representative said that, “We are here to commit ourselves to act.” He also expressed his wish to continue and expand UNEP’s “fruitful cooperation” with the OAS.
The members of the Council are: Tan Sri Arifin Bin Zakaria, Chief Justice of Malaysia; Justice Winston Anderson, Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Judge of the High Court of Brazil; Sir Robert Carnwath, of Notting Hill Justice, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom; Ricardo Luis Lorenzetti, Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court of Argentina; Justice Philip N. Waki, Judge of the Court of Appeals of Kenya; Scott Fulton, General Counsel, United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA); Scott Vaughan, Canada’s Commissioner for Sustainable Development; and Professor Edith Brown Wise, George Washington University (Former Head of World Bank Inspection Panel). More information on the Council Members is available here.
The event concluded with the launch of the first Compendium on Principles of Caribbean Environmental Law Authored by Justice Anderson, the publication addresses a range of issues including town planning, development control, pollution regulation, waste management and coastal/ocean governance. This publication aims at being an indispensable resource for Small Island States (SIDS), given their shared environmental vulnerabilities.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event will be available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.