Launch of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA): from environmental law to ecological law
By Katy Gwiazdon of the ELGA Steering Committee
The Ecological Law and Governance Association was launched on October 13, 2017 at the Santa Chiara Lab of the University of Siena in Siena, Italy. Prior to the launch, there was a two-day working group meeting that brought together 25 experts to provide input into the 2018-2020 ELGA Strategy Plan, including substantive and procedural organizational development (mission, vision, and principles), and program priorities. They came from 15 countries and from across disciplines, including law, philosophy, science, land use planning, and journalism. The 2-day meeting included a World Café style “Wisdom Café, facilitated by ELGA Steering Committee member, Lisa Mead, which saw participants pondering various questions, resulting in a multiplicity of ideas for future exploration.
The Oslo Manifesto, the founding document of ELGA (2016), acknowledges the failure of environmental law in protecting the foundations of life and offers an alternative ecological approach that recognizes ecological interdependencies and human-nature interrelationships. It argues that environmental law, in its current form, is largely anthropocentric, fragmented, and reductionist, rooted in modern Western jurisprudence, with origins in religious anthropocentrism, Cartesian dualism, philosophical individualism, and ethical utilitarianism. This approach has not secured the physical and biological conditions upon which all life depends. Therefore, ELGA aims to look within and beyond existing legal systems and support the analyses of the root causes of the ecological crisis, and the transformative work that needs to happen to build a new, ecologically-focused governance system. It is global, and so looks at common thinking, but is also rooted in local communities. ELGA respects all life, not just human life.
The launch of ELGA was opened by Rector Francesco Frati of the University of Siena, followed by a welcome address from the Siena Town Councillor for Environmental Protection, Paolo Mazzini (on behalf of the Mayor of Siena, Bruno Valentini). Maria Mercedes Sanchez, coordinator of the UN Harmony with Nature initiative, provided the Keynote Address. She spoke of the natural alliance between ELGA and the UN Harmony with Nature Initiative, which advances earth-centered law and the rights of nature. Additional presentations from Klaus Bosselmann, Massimiliano Montini and Katy Gwiazdon, all members of the ELGA Steering Committee, focused on the practical and theoretical foundations of ELGA, its partners, its principles, and the role of ethics in ecological law and governance. During the launch, Klaus Bosselmann and Prue Taylor also presented their newly published book, Ecological Approaches to Environmental Law. The University of Siena welcomed ELGA to hold future gatherings at the University in order to build upon the association’s origins in Siena.
The group agreed that ELGA was created to connect and amplify the many local, national, and international organizations and governments around the world that are seeking to transform our current human-centered, growth-focused paradigm, to an Earth-centered ‘ecological law and governance’ paradigm. Its purpose should be to (1) build a strong, global network of professionals and practitioners and provide a platform for them to advance ecological law; (2) create and disseminate diverse forms of knowledge about ecological law and governance; (3) support capacity-building for organizations and governments; (4) support capacity-building for lawyers and other disciplines; and (5) ultimately influence decision-makers at all levels of governance.
Right now, the organizational structure consists of individual members who agree to the principles of the Oslo Manifesto, and leadership is through a Steering Committee of eight experts from around the world. It was suggested that ELGA also coordinate regional hubs to invest in and empower local organizations, and continue to expand membership with representatives from government, civil society, and academia.
As a result of the group’s time in Siena, the Siena Declaration of Solidarity was drafted as an addendum to the Oslo Manifesto. More photos of the event are included below.