The Nicholas Robinson Award for Excellence in Environmental Law honours individuals who have dedicated their careers toward advancing the environmental rule of law.
The award was presented during the the African Environmental Law Congress, hosted by IUCN WCEL, in collaboration with UNEP, and the Hassan II International Center for Environment Training.
In an acceptance speech, the Executive Secretary also reflected on the work of the past three decades’ generation of learned brothers and sisters from Africa and beyond, who worked together to develop, nurture, implement and enforce environmental law in Africa. Mrema thanked Prof. Nicholas Robinson, WCEL Emeritus Chair, whose name is associated with the Award and spoke fondly of colleagues that have contributed to the development of environmental law in Africa.
Excerpts from the speech given at the African Environmental Law Congress -- 29 July 2021
"For my part, I am thankful for the Organization (UNEP) which I have had the privilege to work with for more than two and a half decades which gave me ample opportunity, with the support of many of you in this Congress as well as those not with us here, to shape the development and implementation of environmental law in Africa and in fact beyond the continent. Equally, before joining UNEP, working with my Government, the United Republic of Tanzania, first as a state counsel and later for a decade plus as a foreign service diplomat both prepared and sharpened my skills which have been instrumental in my future career to date. Here, not forgetting my childhood growth under the slopes of Mountain Kilimanjaro with its natural abundance which I have also unfortunately over the years seeing how environmental challenges have impacted the environment around it. All these attributes are what has brought me this far for which I am thankful for its recognition.
Looking back almost fifty years ago when UNEP was established in 1972 and even twenty years later with the 1st Rio Summit or Earth Summit on Environment and Development in 1992 which also gave birth to three Rio Conventions, namely, UNFCCC, UNCCD and UNCBD to date and where Africa was then and is today as far as development of environmental law in Africa is concerned has been a subject of volumes of publications in books and articles. One can clearly observe a pattern of positive developments and successes over the years, of course, as with global environmental difficulties, equally Africa is not an exception with many challenges to still work on and resolve.
When environmental law programme begun in UNEP especially after the Earth Summit and soon after, thanks to the Government of Netherlands for the initiative then and later joined by other six donors, supported a regional-wide law programme. The programme was on the development and implementation of environmental law in Africa including institutional building that has since witnessed a different state of the environmental laws in Africa. This programme, many of you will recall, saw the power of building and strengthening endogenous capacities of environmental lawyers in the continent. This was then done through long term encouragement to lawyers to undertake higher studies and specialities in environmental law subjects, short-term courses organized under the programme, on the job-training and support as well as internships with several UN entities, to mention but some. Thanks to Prof. Nicholas Robinson, WCEL Emeritus Chair and whose names are associated with the Award, for all his teachings on environmental law subjects that together with UNEP published training materials which, among others, continue to be used for the different training courses. The continent and beyond continues to benefit from his vast expertise and commitment on environmental law...
With the highlight given to climate change in recent years, we also witness a global move of either having ministries of climate change either as fully fledged or part of the environment portfolio or vice versa or part of the ministries of finance and/or planning and the like. The covid-19 pandemic among other environmental challenges is clearly demonstrating that the world is currently faced with three triple crises, namely, climate change, nature or biodiversity and desertification, on one hand or for UNEP, climate change, nature, and pollution. No matter what angle one looks at each of the three, it is crystal clear that all are intrinsically interconnected, and that one cannot be solved in silo without appropriate integration of the others in a whole of government and whole of society and sector approach.
Clearly, our relationship and interference with nature needs to change immediately if we do not want to see more pandemics in future. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see a different movement in national environmental institutional architecture in future because of the acknowledgement of the intrinsic nature of interconnections between different environmental pillars...
Once again, thank you, thank you for the honour bestowed on me and through me to the legal fraternity in Africa."