A matter of

Mamdouh Marie
emphasizes the importance of an informed judiciary on environmental law and makes a practical suggestion for increasing the awareness of judges in his region

Human rights have always attracted the attention of philosophers and intellectuals. World judiciaries, represented by supreme and constitutional courts in civilized countries, have established human rights principles whose precepts apply to citizens and state alike. The courts keep these rights in mind as they address the security requirements of their citizens and states.

The world suffers from many problems with environmental dimensions, including the protection of green spaces; the availability of clean water, unpolluted air and healthy food; the fight against desertification; and the fallout from human security issues, including weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological warfare, and regional, individual and international terrorism. Their duration has prompted intellectuals and international organizations to pay attention to the relationship between pollution and human rights.

Similar solutions
Responses to environmental challenges are often highly localized and specialized due to the world’s demographic and social diversity. The environmental challenges that face the Arab world bear much similarity and require similar, though not necessarily identical, solutions.

Implementing existing legislation is a necessary step in solving environmental problems, but requires a vigilant judge who is sensitive to the implications. It is vital to have a judiciary that is informed of the environmental challenges facing society, that comprehends – and is capable of applying – existing environmental regulations, and that can come up with suitable solutions for unregulated environmental problems.

Including the judiciary in the process of developing environmental law is essential to ensure its efficiency and practical functionality. This ensures that the law is not based merely on theoretical assumptions, but on particular realities – helping to harmonize environmental law with prevailing circumstances.

The Egyptian Ministry of Justice, with years of experience in preparing strong and appropriate legislation, has rendered environmental legislation at a level comparable to the highest legislative standards in the world. Last May the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt hosted an Arab Chief Justices’ meeting in Cairo in collaboration with UNEP. There I suggested establishing a Union for Arab Judges concerned with the environment, so that we may find solutions that will allow our citizens to live in peace, in a society based on liberty and justice. I am delighted to say that the Statute of the Union was adopted and signed by the Chief Justices of Arab Nations at a meeting held in Cairo in collaboration with UNEP on 23-24 November 2004.

Exchange of information
The Union – to be located in Egypt, and executed in coordination with UNEP – will seek to develop environmental awareness and facilitate the exchange of information among judges and other legal stakeholders through preparing a comprehensive database. It will also be in charge of organizing training programmes, encouraging scientific publications, bringing about the enforcement of international treaties and participating in the legislative efforts of member states.

Our aim is not only the achievement of a strong legislative base in Arab countries but, through the Union, to be aware of existing environmental problems and able to implement strong legislation

The Honourable Mamdouh Marie is Chief Justice, Supreme Constitutional Court, Egypt.

PHOTOGRAPH: Jose Pintassilgo/UNEP/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Strengthening the rule of law | Partners in law | Justice can be shortsighted | Force of law | A matter of judgement | A law of energy | People | Rule of man, or rule of law? | At a glance: The rule of law | Sebastião Salgado | Sustainable development comes from Saturn! | One planet, different worlds | Nature’s wisdom | Kickback fightback | Conflict and cooperation | Holistic landmark | Empowering the poor | Legal climate | Small is effective | Building the framework

Complementary issues:
World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002
Climate Change 1997