by Sara Vinson
On Thursday, July 15, 2010, Pace Law School’s Center for Environmental Legal Studies (CELS), in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), held a meeting of U.S.- based organizations and entities working on environmental courts, the rule of law, and access to justice at WRI’s Washington office. The purpose of the meeting was to provide a forum for an informal discussion to promote an exchange of information amongst these organizations that are actively involved in worldwide environmental adjudication, in order to identify potential areas of collaboration.
The meeting brought together several key global organizations and entities, including US EPA, specifically attorneys from the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and attorneys and judges from the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Department of Justice (DOJ), the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), World Bank, WRI, including those working with the Access Initiative, and academia. A wide range of views and experiences were shared amongst the group.
A new entity represented at the meeting was Pace Law School’s International Judicial Institute for Environmental Courts & Tribunals (IJIECT). The Institute aims to foster professionalism and effectiveness in environmental adjudications worldwide, as a contribution to strengthening the rule of law and furthering sustainable development. The two current main activities of the Institute, which were shared with the group, are the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Court Innovation on the current trends of the judiciary in environmental law and the development of a global Directory of environmental courts and tribunals.
Following introductions, the meeting began with a discussion of attendees’ participation in judicial training and capacity building. Two EPA EAB judges kicked off this discussion, and attendees shared their global experiences in locations such as China, Jamaica, and Chile. Many shared the common theory of local capacity building, but also recognized the need to address larger governance issues. The next session dealt with access to environmental judicial and quasi-judicial forums around the world. There are several obstacles for people to gain access to judicial institutions, including standing, costs, procedural rules, evidentiary burdens, and cultural barriers. Attendees have been working with various nations to improve access. Two examples included the World Bank’s operational policies and WRI’s Access Initiative. The final session included a discussion on the demand for, and institutionalization of, new environmental courts. There are already over 350 environmental courts and tribunals (ECTs) in the world, and the number is growing. Participants used the Philippines’ system as an example of a successful ECT and asked the question of how to replicate that system.
The meeting concluded with a look toward the groups’ next steps. The group discussed and agreed to future collaborations to continue to promote global environmental governance.
(For more information about The International Judicial Institute for Environmental Courts & Tribunals (IJIECT), please visit www.law.pace.edu/ijiect.)