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ISSUE 101, September 1-30, 2014

LOOKING AT MDGs

7

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Courts urged to take environmental law seriously By Duncan Mboyah While climate change, global warming and pollution are some of the key issues affecting the world today, legal perspectives to the protection of environment has failed on many fronts. Many people are ignorant of laws related to environmental protection, the courts have not been serious when it comes to implementing the same laws. In seeking to address poverty and sustainable development, the United Nations member states set eight goals and among them the issue of protecting the environment was included. Millennium Development Goal seven seeks to ensure environmental sustainability. It targets to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources. Speaking at the United Nations Environment Assembly, Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga attributed the challenges facing the Judiciary in terms of dealing with environment crimes to poor record to lack of capacity for the intricacies and complexities of environmental litigation, disincentives for members of the Bar to venture into environmental litigation, lack of public awareness of environmental conservation and available remedies in the event of violation and the prohibitive financial costs involved paying costs of the suit were some of the barriers. Mutunga noted that lately the Judiciary in Kenya was increasingly not imposing costs in environmental disputes which are considered to be of public interest in a bid to encourage public-spirited individuals, and civil society groups to litigate on environmental violations. Mutunga challenged courts worldwide to

national and international fora for sharing of experiences and best practices in matters concerning environmental law. “Capacity-building of our respective judiciaries will not only enhance the quality of judicial pronouncements and improve judicial techniques as well as approaches in the application of green principles, but will also develop an environmental jurisprudence that can be used in enhancing environmental rule of law and justice,” reiterated Mutunga.

Record

Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has called on judges to take environmental matters seriously. strengthen the application of environmental law through legal binding international instruments. The judges and lawyers who attended United Nations Environment Assembly were asked to begin to make corporations responsible for their activities without fear or favour. The environment has become a global concern especially if the world is to achieve sustainable development.

Govern

Speaking at the first ever United Nations Environment Assembly, Mutunga sked those in the Judiciary to start improving environmental governance and especially access to information, public participation and access to justice as essential to the rule of law. His sentiments were echoed by Dr Lalanath

de Silva Director, the Access Initiative, World Resources Institute who said: “The Judiciary must expand the right of law by being transparent in handling environmental matters.” De Silva asked judges and magistrates to set example by declaring their wealth in executing duty as this will enable them gain trust from the citizens. Mutunga observed that given the rapid expansion of environmental law, and the ongoing developments, there is need to train and expose all the institutions and officials responsible for addressing justice, governance and law issues to the environmental laws. “The nature of environmental disputes poses a significant challenge to judges, primarily due to the technical and scientific issues involved,” Mutunga said. He asked judges to participate in regular

He noted that despite mechanisms put in place to ease court processes through among others establishment of specialised courts, environmental cases are less than five per cent of the cases filed in the Environment and Land Court in the country so far. “Let us undertake more proactive engagement with partners and stakeholders in the field of the environment, as a way of promoting public participation in establishing environmental rule of law and promoting environmental justice,” Mutunga stressed. He called on judges to begin to see environmental crimes, money laundering and terrorism as crimes of interoperable nature that are an imperil to democracies and stability of nations. In an effort to promote stakeholder engagement, the Kenyan judiciary has also established Court Users Committees in every court. These open and consultative fora provide an avenue to address a broad range to administration of justice matters, both precautionary as well as responsive. The Court Users Committees provide the Judiciary with an opportunity to make the legal system more participatory and inclusive.

European Commission plans to propose new targets after MDGs By Duncan Mboyah The European Commission plans to propose the formation of new development goals as the UN Millennium Development Goals come to an end next year. According to the commission’s commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, they will prefer goals that aim at natural resource protection to help eradicate poverty in the world. “The Rio de Janeiro conference that proposed the creation of MDGs committed conditions for access to drinking water and improvement of sanitation, but all this has not been achieved,” Potocnik said during a press briefing on the sidelines of the United Nations Environmental Assembly held in Nairobi. At the United Nations Millennium Development Summit in 2000, 189 countries made a number of commitments that would help in improving status of the developing countries including addressing challenges of poverty and climate change. They promised to half extreme poverty and curb diseases such as AIDs and Malaria by 2015. There has been an impressive reduction in poverty in the past 13 years. The world achieved the goal of halving extreme poverty five years earlier than expected. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 77 per cent of children attended primary school in 2011. In 1990 that figure was 54 per cent. Potocnik observed that Millennium Development Goals failed to project water first as a natural resource before getting into other goals yet countries started at different levels. He said that the MDGs were set

Country road in Western Kenya with food crops and trees planted along the roadside. Natural resource protection will help eradicate poverty.

with plans to empower the developing world so that they could step up their development agenda.

Resolution

“The transition will ensure that economic systems that can be respected by all are accepted by all given that some countries have limited resources,” Potocnik added. The official said that the European Commission in collaboration with African minister’s plan to present a joint resolution in regard to illegal wildlife trade during the coming

United Nations General Assembly. “We are also calling on the United Nations to streamline UNEP’s work with that of CITES and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He said that there is no need talking about green growth and other development plans and tying it with economic development when it is clear that Africa’s understanding of environmental conservation and that of European is different. He called on countries to adopt regulations that allow citizens to start recycling plastic products by re-using

them as opposed to throwing them away after use. The Commissioner said the new goals to be set will be specific in addressing issues such as food waste and marine life. “We must talk seriously about introducing global targets that tackle resource productivity for the preservation of nature and public health as opposed to doing things on the basis of business as usual,” he said. He noted that EC is committed to climate change negotiations and is in the process of reconciling economic

development and environmental conservation. ”We must be ready to change if we want to continue living in this planet and stop looking at economic power only as oppose to environmental conservation and restoration,” he warned. He challenged all governments to take action for their industrial waste by complying with the international set standards. According to reports from different countries, efforts to combat infectious diseases are also proving successful.

Reject Online Issue 101  

The Reject Online is a monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman & Child Feature Service

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