The IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP) and the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law held a joint workshop on Sunday 3rd July at Mpekweni Beach Resort in South Africa entitled “Towards the legal recognition and governance of ecosystem services”. This workshop preceded the Academy’s 9th annual colloquium.
In view of the major conferences planned for 2012 (the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the 5th World Conservation Congress and the 11th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity), this pre-colloquium workshop focused on analysing judicial decisions recognising ecosystem services as such, as well as existing legal frameworks for the recognition and governance of specific ecosystem services as a means to ensure their continuous provision.
Despite their importance for human well-being, ecosystem services are more and more under pressure and increasingly threatened by human activities. Therefore, ways have to be sought to address this problem in a comprehensive manner, with effective governance being a central part.
Law plays an important part in the governance of ecosystem services by directly affecting human behaviour. It formally defines the framework for the recognition and governance of ecosystem services, by granting certain rights to different people and determining their obligations, establishing processes for decision-making, implementation and enforcement, as well as providing mechanisms for avoiding and coping with conflicts between different actors.
Several presentations were made during the workshop on themes such as ecosystem services and protected areas, and ecosystem energy services. Justice Antonio Benjamin, Deputy Chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) and Justice of the High Court of Brazil who was in Brazil at the time of the workshop, prepared a video presentation for the event.
This workshop took place the day before the Academy’s 9th colloquium, an international gathering that takes place every year on a different theme since 2003 and that has the objective of bringing together professionals, scholars and policy makers to encourage networking and collaboration.