The past forty years show that the rule of law at national and international levels can make a significant contribution toward forging an enduring partnership between the environment and development founded on ecological and social sustainability. Judging by the continuing trajectory of rapid environmental degradation and natural resource depletion, it is, however, universally recognized that its full potential has yet to be realized. Recognizing environmental law as a foundation for environmental sustainability and realizing its full potential is ever more urgent in our quest towards sustainable development and new economic growth, but also towards just and fair societies vis-à-vis growing environmental pressures.
Through the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
and UNEP’s World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, both held in June 2012, the rule of law in environmental matters has received new affirmation. Through the World Congress, for example, over 250 of the world’s Chief Justices, Attorneys General and Auditors General seized a generational opportunity to contribute to the debates on the environment and declare that any diplomatic outcomes related to the environment and sustainable development, including from Rio+20, will remain unimplemented without adherence to the rule of law, without open, just and dependable legal orders.
Similarly, the ‘Future We Want’
, the outcome document of Rio+20, reaffirms the central role to be played by the rule of law on the path towards sustainable development and makes it a prerequisite for a successful transition to greener economies. The document also highlights the crucial role played by national judiciaries in ensuring fairness and equity in the implementation of policies to further sustainable development.
These developments are underpinned and bolstered by the recently adopted Resolution by the UN General Assembly on the Rule of Law (A/RES/67/1)
which underlines the importance of fair, stable and predictable legal frameworks for generating inclusive, sustainable and equitable development and maintaining peace and security, as well as a report which will be before the UNEP Governing Council the February (UNEP/GC.27/13)
Individually and together, these important outcomes of recent international processes and developments have the potential to aid governments in making significant strides in making societies more just, enhance the rule of law and promote environmental sustainability.
The World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability was co-hosted by: Association of Magistrates and Judges of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Associação dos Magistrados do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - AMAERJ); Getulio Vargas Foundation (Fundação Getulio Vargas); and Attorney General of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Ministério Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro). It was organized with the following partners: Asian Development Bank; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; International Criminal Police Organization; International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions – Working Group on Environmental Auditing; Organization of American States; South Pacific Regional Environment Program; World Bank; International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement; Environmental Law Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; and Law for a Green Planet Institute.