Participation of AIDA in the Second Law, Justice and Development Week, World Bank Headquarters, Washington DC, 10-14 December 2012 Report by Jonathan R. Schutz

The World Bank Group convened its second Law, Justice and Development Week (LJD Week) at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, DC, December 10-14, 2012.  This year’s theme was “Opportunity, Inclusion and Equity: Responding to the Challenges of Our Time.”  LJD Week 2012 was co-organized by the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency, International Finance Corporation and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Legal Departments, and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  LJD Week is part of the World Bank Group’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development, of which AIDA is an official partner.  The conference brought together senior officials from international financial institutions, international development practitioners, government officials, lawyers, judges, scholars, and civil society representatives.

The conference explored the role of law and legal institutions in providing people with more opportunities that are both inclusive of underserved populations and equitable.  To explore these issues, the conference had thematic working groups.  AIDA participated in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law working group by helping to organize the content of several panels and provided a speaker on one panel. 

The conference began with a keynote address from Hernando de Soto, President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy.  Mr. de Soto, an economist, commented extensively on the role of law as a mechanism for transforming the informal/shadow economy to the formal economy.  He argued that transitioning to a formal economy was empowering of underserved populations because it creates a paper trial that allows transactions to be visible and tracked.  If a transaction can be tracked, people can enforce their rights.  He commented how the lack of transparency hinders people’s ability to obtain credit and to protect their property interests.    

After the keynote, the conference separated into parallel sessions.  I attended the sessions organized by the Environmental and Natural Resources Working Group.  The presentations focused on RIO +20’s document “The Future We Want.”  Panelists debated whether it emphasized the importance of the rule of law and whether it would push the world closer to sustainable development.  There was debate regarding whether “sustainable development” was precise enough for judges to enforce it.  In the end, most presenters agreed that “The Future We Want” supported the connection between the rule of law and sustainable development.  Presenters also agreed that implementing “The Future We Want” into national law and policy would be essential.     

The Environmental and Natural Resources Working Group convened again on the third day of the conference.  This day consisted of three panels.  Participants then broke into communities of practice groups to brainstorm. 

The first panel covered new developments in environmental law regarding pollution prevention and control.  Participants included Steve Wolfson of U.S. EPA, Dan McGraw of Johns Hopkins University, Paul Hagan of Beveridge & Diamond, and Alfredo Attie of the Sao Paulo Supreme Court.  Examples of innovative environmental law included the Philippines creating a writ of nature; Chile creating an environmental justice requirement for environmental impact assessments; strengthening the legal connection between environmental law and human rights; and reducing the distance between judges and people.  Suggestions for further improvements included creating hubs for collaboration and applying performance measures and indicators to environmental law.

The second panel was regarding how legal empowerment and access to justice can contribute to natural resource governance.  I presented on this panel with Arnold Kreilhuber of UNEP.  Arnold provided an overview of the UN Report Greening of Water Law, stating that the report tried to provide particulars that national entities could adopt in their water law to green water law in a manner that both protects the environment and allows for use of the resource.  I then elaborated on the particular recommendations of the report and gave an example of many of the recommendations.  Lastly, I provided my take on what elements a fair water allocation system has to have to function and empower people.  A representative of the Organization of American States mentioned two of its programs that are providing access and public participation: the Inter-American Strategy for the Promotion of Public Participation in Decision Making for Sustainable Development and its judicial facilitators programs.  These facilitators are volunteers elected by communities to be liaison between the judicial system and people.  Lastly, Sharif Raus, President Court of Appeals of Malaysia, pointed out Malaysia’s environmental law efforts.  Malaysia created an environmental court in 2012.  Environmental cases must be decided within three months and may be appealed to the supreme court.  The supreme court must decide cases within six months.  The goal is to make clear that Malaysian courts will not tolerate environmental violations.

The third panel addressed recent advances in public participation and access to justice.  Shiranee Tilakawardane of the Sri Lanka Supreme Court, stated that courts can have a transformative role in delivering social justice; courts can be the drivers of change.  Engaged and empathetic judges can help change the attitudes of people.  A panelist from the Access Initiative commented on the right of information laws.  She stated that, based on a case study in Thailand, freedom of information laws are critical to the citizenry obtaining good information from government.  Maya Prabhu of the Center for International Sustainable Development Law chronicled the many cases that link human rights with environmental crimes.  Kala Mulqueery, Principal Counsel, Asian Development Bank, stated that environmental innovations which allow people better access to justice is a huge step forward in protecting the environment.  An example of this is the Asian Judges Network.  The Network has a sub-group called the ASEAN Chief Justices roundtable.  This is not just a meeting of judges, but helps members set up training programs, goals, etc. that they can take back to their countries.

After the panels, participants divided up into communities of practice.  I participated in the Natural Resources Governance (land, water, forests) communities of practice group.  The task of the group was to identify what the group should focus on between now and the next Law Justice and Development Week.  Our group determined that we should focus on how to translate large goals—Rio + 20 type goals—to laws and policies that can be implemented at a national and local level.  The desired work product would be best management practices for how to implement the larger goals.  The University of Montana Legal Atlas representatives agreed to spearhead this and I offered AIDA’s assistance.

The conference was a good opportunity to convene and collaborate with other lawyers facing natural resource issues worldwide.  The participants seemed to appreciate AIDA’s input and assistance.