Meet the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Robert Percival

The year 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of a global network of legal educators dedicated to improving the teaching of environmental law and promoting its conceptual development throughout the world.  The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law (“the Academy”) was created in 2003 by a small group environmental law professors from several countries, with the endorsement of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Today the Academy has 168 institutional members from 53 countries in all corners of the globe.  Pace Professor Nicholas Robinson, a fellow member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers, was the moving force behind the founding of the Academy.  I am most grateful to him for recruiting me to be one of its founding members, and I have been delighted to participate in the Academy’s rapid growth.

Each year the IUCN Academy holds a Colloquium in a different part of the world at which the top academic experts in environmental law from all over the world gather to examine developments in the field.  From June 24-28, 2013, the 11th Colloquium of the Academy was held at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.  Despite the remote location, more than 200 environmental experts from 30 countries participated in this event in person. A particular highlight of the colloquium was a plenary session on access to justice that featured presentations from some of the world’s top judges. 

The annual distinguished scholar lecture at this year’s colloquium was presented by Mas Achmad Santosa, Deputy Minister and Deputy Head of the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring & Oversight of the Republic of Indonesia.  He discussed how Indonesian environmental officials are using satellite monitoring technology to locate the sources of massive fires in Sumatran palm oil plantations that have blanketed Singapore and Malaysia with record air pollution.  Santosa was remarkably candid in discussing the challenges corruption poses to environmental enforcement in the developing world. 

In addition to the distinguished scholar lecture, many other environmental experts make presentations at the colloquia.  This year more than 160 presentations were made at the University of Waikato gathering.  Abstracts and PowerPoint slides of the presentations can be viewed here. In recent years graduate students have been participating in the colloquia in greater numbers.  Five of my top Maryland environmental law students presented papers at the University of Waikato gathering last month on topics as diverse as adaptation to climate change, the challenge of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in different countries, legal strategies for holding multinational corporations accountable for environmental harm, and trans-national differences in risk analysis.

The colloquia also feature day-long workshops on environmental law research and the teaching of environmental law.  The Academy has devoted considerable resources to improving the capacity of universities to teach environmental law.  Week-long “Training the Teachers” courses have been developed by Academy faculty and are presented regularly in developing countries. The Basic Course, which addresses the needs of professors who are new to teaching environmental law, covers the scope and substance of environmental law and it explores teaching methodologies and approaches to student assessment. The Advanced Course seeks to prepare senior environmental law professors to deliver the Basic Course to junior colleagues.  During summer 2013 these courses will be given to a group of Chinese professors in Chongqing, China. 

To keep the global community updated on the latest developments in environmental law, the Academy publishes an online journal that is updated twice a year.  This e-journal includes articles, book reviews, and reports on developments in environmental law in many different countries.  The latest issue of this e-journal includes 30 different country reports, each authored by a local expert.

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law has helped create a truly global network of academic experts specializing in environmental law.  They will gather again next summer for the Academy’s 12th Colloquium at the Universitat of Rovira y Virgili in Tarragona, Spain from June 30-July 5, 2014.



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