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Areas Of Practice

Environment

The Environment Program promotes conscientious stewardship of natural resources and the human rights obligations underpinning a sustainable environment and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Program collaborates with local, regional and international environmental NGOs, providing them with legal representation on projects that concern pressing environmental issues around the world. Areas of focus for the Program include human rights and the environment, climate change, protection of environmental defenders, international humanitarian law and environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, toxic pollution, and water source and river protection. The Program works to promote the rights of indigenous peoples and other communities through projects that seek to build legal capacity and knowledge about international norms and standards that govern their rights.

The Program also supports special rapporteurs of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. International Law Commission in furtherance of their mandates in areas such as human rights and the environment, children’s environmental rights, and environmental protection during armed conflict. The Program provides legal assistance to international organizations that promote global environmental rights, conducting multijurisdictional research and analysis of complex legal issues to ensure protection of the fundamental principles of environmental law.

The contribution of the Cyrus R. Vance Center and its lawyers has been of crucial importance for my work as the United Nations International Law Commission’s Special Rapporteur on the topic ‘Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts’. By assisting me in identifying case law relevant to my second and third report, the Center has enabled considerable progress to be made on this topic. The contributions were excellent in every respect and it is a privilege to have received this assistance. In addition, it has been inspiring to work with such an engaged group of excellent lawyers in the cause of global justice.

Dr. Marie Jacobsson, United Nations International Law Commission, Special Rapporteur for the Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict

The Vance Center has become a great partner in our Water Security strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have helped us to develop strong relationships with local counsel in regions where they are pioneers promoting a culture of pro bono legal services. The Vance Center team assumes real ownership in all projects as a member in our conservation efforts, but also promotes methods to share legal knowledge and information with other nonprofits and individuals in order to achieve greater impacts in the region.

Froylan Hernandez-Ruiz, Senior Attorney, Latin America Region, The Nature Conservancy

The support of the Vance Center came at a critical time for the Prey Lang Community Network struggling to protect their ancestral lands from illegal logging. The community now can be appropriately involved in conservation and management efforts and receive on-call legal assistance to protect their members in case of persecution and incrimination.

Ida Theilade, Senior Researcher, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

For the last five years, the Vance Center has provided invaluable assistance to my work as the first UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.  Most recently, the Center’s research was an integral part of my report to the UN Human Rights Council on children’s rights and the environment.

Professor John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

New Projects

Analyzing Regional Instruments Related to the Environmental Principles in the Proposed Global Pact for the Environment

The Vance Center is assisting the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee (IUCN) in connection with its efforts to support the Global Pact for the Environment (Global Pact), a newly proposed global agreement ...

Close

Analyzing Regional Instruments Related to the Environmental Principles in the Proposed Global Pact for the Environment

The Vance Center is assisting the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee (IUCN) in connection with its efforts to support the Global Pact for the Environment (Global Pact), a newly proposed global agreement on fundamental principles of environmental law. The Vance Center is conducting a review of the regional environmental instruments adopted by the Arab League States, African Union States, Arab League States, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) States, South Pacific States, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) States to determine whether the principles included in the proposed Global Pact are also embodied in these various regional instruments. This project will provide the Vance Center and IUCN with critical legal research to be used in connection with further negotiations in support of the proposed Global Pact at the United Nations and elsewhere.

Pure Earth Project in Colombia

The Vance Center is assisting Pure Earth in Colombia in a project related to the allocation of responsibility for chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots. ...

Close

Pure Earth Project in Colombia

The Vance Center is assisting Pure Earth in Colombia in a project related to the allocation of responsibility for chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots. Specifically, Pure Earth is working with the Ministry of Environment to improve legislation on these issues, as well as assisting two local communities that are suffering from contamination caused by lead smelting operations. Comparing the laws in Colombia with those in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Brazil, the Vance Center has analyzed how Latin American countries allocate liability under these circumstances. In addition to this initial research, the Vance Center is analyzing how two areas in Colombia with contaminated legacy smelting sites might be rezoned under Colombian law, specifically assessing the land use legislation. Furthermore, the Vance Center is advising Pure Earth on how the laws governing these sites could be improved or amended to better protect the community from pollution emanating from the smelting operations.

Legal Framework of Payment for Ecosystem Services in Brazil

The Vance Center is assisting The Nature Conservancy in analyzing the current legal framework for payment for ecosystem services (PES) in Brazil, including any proposed legislation to improve the system, and how both may affect the development of PES projects....

Close

Legal Framework of Payment for Ecosystem Services in Brazil

The Vance Center is assisting The Nature Conservancy in analyzing the current legal framework for payment for ecosystem services (PES) in Brazil, including any proposed legislation to improve the system, and how both may affect the development of PES projects. The Vance Center is currently analyzing Brazil’s current legal framework for PES, including an overview of laws that directly support the implementation of PES projects, and any legislation proposed at the federal level; any secondary legislation or mechanisms that support PES, specifically those that directly or indirectly relate to the development of projects, such as tax obligations, environmental authorizations, monitoring and enforcement systems, and types of contracts used in PES projects; and produce a template agreement for PES between TNC and local landowners.

New Projects

Analyzing Regional Instruments Related to the Environmental Principles in the Proposed Global Pact for the Environment

The Vance Center is assisting the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee (IUCN) in connection with its efforts to support the Global Pact for the Environment (Global Pact), a newly proposed global agreement ...

Close

Analyzing Regional Instruments Related to the Environmental Principles in the Proposed Global Pact for the Environment

The Vance Center is assisting the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee (IUCN) in connection with its efforts to support the Global Pact for the Environment (Global Pact), a newly proposed global agreement on fundamental principles of environmental law. The Vance Center is conducting a review of the regional environmental instruments adopted by the Arab League States, African Union States, Arab League States, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) States, South Pacific States, and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) States to determine whether the principles included in the proposed Global Pact are also embodied in these various regional instruments. This project will provide the Vance Center and IUCN with critical legal research to be used in connection with further negotiations in support of the proposed Global Pact at the United Nations and elsewhere.

Pure Earth Project in Colombia

The Vance Center is assisting Pure Earth in Colombia in a project related to the allocation of responsibility for chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots. ...

Close

Pure Earth Project in Colombia

The Vance Center is assisting Pure Earth in Colombia in a project related to the allocation of responsibility for chemical and waste legacy toxic hotspots. Specifically, Pure Earth is working with the Ministry of Environment to improve legislation on these issues, as well as assisting two local communities that are suffering from contamination caused by lead smelting operations. Comparing the laws in Colombia with those in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Brazil, the Vance Center has analyzed how Latin American countries allocate liability under these circumstances. In addition to this initial research, the Vance Center is analyzing how two areas in Colombia with contaminated legacy smelting sites might be rezoned under Colombian law, specifically assessing the land use legislation. Furthermore, the Vance Center is advising Pure Earth on how the laws governing these sites could be improved or amended to better protect the community from pollution emanating from the smelting operations.

Legal Framework of Payment for Ecosystem Services in Brazil

The Vance Center is assisting The Nature Conservancy in analyzing the current legal framework for payment for ecosystem services (PES) in Brazil, including any proposed legislation to improve the system, and how both may affect the development of PES projects....

Close

Legal Framework of Payment for Ecosystem Services in Brazil

The Vance Center is assisting The Nature Conservancy in analyzing the current legal framework for payment for ecosystem services (PES) in Brazil, including any proposed legislation to improve the system, and how both may affect the development of PES projects. The Vance Center is currently analyzing Brazil’s current legal framework for PES, including an overview of laws that directly support the implementation of PES projects, and any legislation proposed at the federal level; any secondary legislation or mechanisms that support PES, specifically those that directly or indirectly relate to the development of projects, such as tax obligations, environmental authorizations, monitoring and enforcement systems, and types of contracts used in PES projects; and produce a template agreement for PES between TNC and local landowners.

Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA)
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Legal Response Initiative (LRI)
Global Witness
International Rivers
NextGen Climate America
World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) at the International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee (IUCN)
Pure Earth
Dr. Marie Jacobsson, United Nations International Law Commission, Special Rapporteur for the Protection of the Environment in relation to Armed Conflict
Prof. John Knox, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
Asociación Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos (BDH)
Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN)
Huaorani Bameno community