It is with great sadness that IUCN announces the passing of Dr Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin after a protracted illness.
This is a tremendous loss to the organisation and, in particular, to its Environmental Law community.
Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin is a prodigious example of a lifetime’s dedication to the conservation of the environment through the conceptual development of its legal dimension. After graduation as a Doctor in Law at the University of Brussels in 1966, Françoise was appointed Secretary to the IUCN Commission on Legislation. From 1970 to 1972 she worked as Legal Officer and in 1973 became Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC) in Bonn, the position she held until 1999. From that time onwards she worked as Senior Counsel to the three consecutive directors of the ELC.
Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora –CITES; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.
Françoise’s commitment to the young generation of environmental lawyers was extraordinary. She provided encouragement and support to numerous researchers and interns from all over the world. IUCN Council paid tribute to this in January this year by establishing the Françoise Burhenne Fellowship in Environmental Law as a way to build on her legacy.
Her lifelong contribution to environmental law was acknowledged through many recognitions, distinctions and awards such as the Better World Society Medal for Protection of the Global Environment (1989), the 1991 International Environment Prize of the United Nations, and the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law (2008).
Her uncompromising demand for accuracy and precision not only in her own but also in the work of others, her determination mixed with kindness, her legendary hospitality in Oelinghoven will be remembered by everyone who experienced them.
She was a remarkable and passionate lawyer who not only shaped the IUCN agenda on policy and law, but influenced the lives of many lawyers around the world. Her daily presence will be missed by the entire organisation, but in particular by her colleagues at the Environmental Law Centre.
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