Independent Adviser, Former Legal Counselor | the United Nations
World Congress on justice, governance and law for environmental sustainability
On 17-20 June 2012, the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability took place in Brazil.
One of the purposes of the Congress, which gathered well over 200 participants, was to contribute to the Rio+20 Conference on the role of environmental laws within the themes of the “Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development” and “Green Economy”. Another important task was to outline the future actions required by national and international legal stakeholders in order to promote the pursuit of sustainable development in the 21st century founded on the rule of law and effective governance. The World Congress was also intended to assess the progress made in implementing the outcomes of the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
On 20 June 2012 the Congress adopted the Rio+20 Declaration on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability. The Declaration was presented to the President of Rio+20 and to the Heads of State and other high level representatives at the Rio+20 Conference. The Declaration contains three main elements:
- Messages to Heads of State and Government, other high-level representatives, and the world community at large.
- Principles for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.
- Institutional Framework for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in the 21st Century.
The several messages include that an independent judiciary and judicial process is vital for the implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law; that environmental law is essential for the protection of natural resources and ecosystems and reflects our best hope for the future of our planet; and that environmental sustainability cannot be achieved without good quality data, monitoring, auditing and accounting for performance. The participants emphasize that environmental and sustainability auditing ensures transparency, access to information, accountability, and efficient use of public finances, while protecting the environment for future generations. In that context they highlight the responsibility of judges, public prosecutors and auditors and stress the need to strengthen existing international governance institutions to protect the global environment.
The principles expressed in the declaration are summarized on the note that only through the active engagement of all parts of society, especially national and sub-national institutions and officials responsible for addressing justice, governance and law issues, including judges, prosecutors, auditing institutions and other key functionaries, can meaningful progress be achieved that is sustained and responsive to the needs of the peoples of the world and protective of human rights.
The Declaration concludes by defining the purposes of an international institutional network that should be established with UNEP in the lead and with the engagement of other relevant actors. This endeavor should be managed under the guidance of selected members of the professions that participated in the World Congress.
Personally, I found the Congress very interesting, in particular since I could compare it with the Global Judges Symposium in Johannesburg 10 years ago where I participated in my capacity as the UN Legal Counsel at the time. The fact that not only judges but also prosecutors and auditors participated in the Rio Congress made the discussions more multifaceted and interesting. I know that the Johannesburg Symposium led to further contacts among judges, and it is my hope that the World Congress will lead to additional networking, now among the three professional categories that participated.
Member of the High Level International Advisory Committee for the Congress
Former Legal Counsel of the United Nations
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Rio+20 Declaration on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability June 20th 2012
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