World Commission on Environmental Law


What is the Commission?

The World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) is a network of environmental law and policy experts from all regions of the world who volunteer their knowledge and services to IUCN activities, especially to those of the IUCN Law Programme. WCEL functions as an integral part of the IUCN Environmental Law Programme, which includes the Commission and the Environmental Law Centre

With a worldwide membership, WCEL not only takes the lead in projects of its own, but also provides a source of expertise for the Environmental Law Centre and other parts of IUCN. The Commission thus serves as the principal source of legal technical advice to the Union, its members and its collaborating institutions on all aspects of environmental law. It supports action by international governmental organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations to improve or develop legal and institutional infrastructure best attuned to natural resources conservation in the context of sustainable development. WCEL's goal is to demonstrate the vital importance of such infrastructure within national and international strategies for environmental conservation, including the sustainable use of natural resources within and beyond national jurisdictions. 

How is the Commission structured?

The World Commission on Environmental Law is led by a Steering Committee consisting of the Chair, the Deputy Chair and Vice Chairs. The Director of the Environmental Law Centre is an ex officio member of the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee meets at least once a year to discuss the implementation of the IUCN Law Programme and to decide on the future of Commission initiatives. The Commission is primarily supported by a WCEL Liaison Officer based in Washington DC and by the staff of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, especially the Legal Officers.
The word "interdisciplinary" best characterises the Commission and its structure: environmental law involves many intertwined disciplines and this has been accommodated in the Commission by a loose, theme-oriented structure. Specialist Groups are organised to meet demands of a special effort in promoting conceptual work in environmental law. In addition, individual members collaborate on projects arising from their respective areas of expertise through the organisation of consultations, internet discussion fora and ad hoc Working Groups.

Who are its members?

Members of the Commission come from diverse areas of expertise within environmental law and policy, but all share a commitment to work actively towards the progress of conservation law. They serve in their personal capacity, although they might come from governmental or non-governmental organisations, might be active in private law practice, attached to a university or an international organisation. They represent every region of the world and their interests and expertise span the full spectrum of environmental law from pollution issues to those related to biological diversity conservation.

How is it funded?

The World Commission on Environmental Law as such receives a limited amount of core funds from the IUCN budget in the form of a Commission operational fund. Activities within the Law Programme are funded through a variety of sources, including IUCN unrestricted funds and earmarked contributions. The Commission contributes towards the fundraising effort for individual projects.

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