Vance Center Supports Major UN Report on Environmental Rule of Law

December 2023

The Second Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law relies extensively on data collected by the Vance Center with partner firm White & Case, in one of the Vance Center's largest ever research projects. 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently released its Second Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law, one of the UN agency’s flagship reports. The report extensively relies on data collected by the Vance Center working together with partner firm White & Case, in one of the largest research projects ever undertaken by the Vance Center. 

The rule of law is an essential element of effective environmental protection. States must have the capacity to develop and implement effective environmental regulations, and such regulations must be enforced fairly, developed through equitable participation, and applied by effective and transparent institutions. The “environmental rule of law” requires both these elements to ensure meaningful environmental outcomes. 

The UNEP report measures global compliance with the environmental rule of law against a set of 22 indicators developed in consultation with the Vance Center. Teams of lawyers collected data across each of these indicators in all 193 UN Member States – an expansive and unprecedented undertaking, requiring the participation of more than 260 lawyers from White & Case. The global reach of the Vance Center and White & Case was essential in enabling UNEP to collect this comprehensive data. 

The UNEP report reveals six main findings. It tracks the environmental impacts of COVID-19; recognizes the growing recognition of environmental rights; outlines an increasing trend toward specialized environmental enforcement agencies; sets out the potential of new technologies in environmental law; recognizes the role of women as champions of environmental rule of law; and identifies the links between social justice and environmental challenges.  

White & Case partner Michelle Keen, assisted by lawyers Michael McArdle and Thuy Finch, took on the mammoth task of coordinating hundreds of lawyers within the firm. White & Case then worked with the Vance Center and UNEP to process and validate the collected data. The work feeds into UNEP’s ongoing work on institutionalizing the environmental rule of law as a key concept in global environmental protection.