While economic development has increased living standards for many in Asia and the Pacific, it has come at a significant environmental cost which threatens to erode the hard-won economic and social gains made over the last few decades. Environmental degradation threatens ecosystems, food and water security, livelihoods, and, contributes to climate change impact in Asia and the Pacific. Moreover, many environmental problems are worsened by illegal activities, exacerbated by poor environmental enforcement and weak governance.
Derailment of economic growth due to calamities, plants and wildlife species loss, and depletion of natural resources, have brought the focus of countries in the region towards compliance and enforcement of environmental laws. As a result, the study of environmental law has emerged as a significant field to regulate the ecological impact of human activities.
Building the capacity of environmental law professors and teachers in Asia and the Pacific is crucial for sustainable development since their students will become the region's future stakeholders. These individuals will eventually influence and enforce policies governing the use and management of natural resources.
“We are facing a crisis. We have to be part of the solution. If you want to change mindsets you have to start with the law students, the science students because they will become lawyers, politicians someday. They will become officials of government, they will become teachers. This is why this technical assistance is critical. Teaching environmental law in a way that people will be inspired to learn is a tremendous effort.”
– Gerthie Mayo-Anda, Professor, University of Palawan, Philippines and IUCN Academy of Environmental Law TTT trainer
The number of law schools in the 14 DMCs which teach environmental law ranges from a low of 5 in Sri Lanka to a high of 1,200 in India. However, only a small number of law schools in Asia offer environmental law teaching at the postgraduate level.
While most universities in developing countries include environmental law within the basic law degree, less than half of them (India, Indonesia, Myanmar, People’s Republic of China, Philippines and Viet Nam) have made it a compulsory subject at the basic law degree level.
Most universities in developing member countries require law teachers to have at least an LLB degree and an LLM degree. However, there are variations in requirements and standards in the teaching of environmental law in these countries.
A major challenge facing most of the developing member countries is the insufficient or unknown numbers of qualified environmental law professors or specialists. Some countries have an insufficient number scholars actively involved in teaching environmental law, while their numbers in other countries remain unknown.
To help address the issues in the state of environmental law in the region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature Academy of Environmental Law (“IUCNAEL”), is conducting a "Train-the-Trainers" program developing environmental law champions in the region. The program aims to increase knowledge and awareness of environmental law through various innovative teaching methodologies, fostering in-country and regional networks between participants, and development of regional knowledge resources.
Role-play exercises: In this method, each group is asked to represent a different set of interests within a fact situation. If it is a mediation exercise, the same groups can be used to represent the different interests, but with the addition of the use of a mediator. The photos in the slideshow above show scenes of a mediation role-play exercise during the 2016 in-country training conducted in Cebu, Philippines by the ADB, IUCNAEL, and the University of Cebu.
Field trips: Field trips are widely recognised as one of the strongest teaching methodologies in environmental law as they expand the experience and understanding of the students concerning legal aspects of environmental issues that are addressed in the course. The video above shows participants on a boat ride in the Trang An Natural and Cultural Heritage complex during the 2016 in-country training course in Viet Nam.
Small-group discussions: Many students are reluctant to speak in larger classes, and small-group discussions is one way to encourage them to engage verbally in their learning process. The basic philosophy is that intensive discussion of particular questions will assist the learning process. If students know that they are expected to regularly speak in small group exercises, they will also be encouraged to read the materials more intensively. The depth of student learning is therefore enhanced. The photos above feature small-group discussions during the 2016 in-country training in Beijing, China.
From the feedback received from the TTT participants, there is no question that they were very enthusiastic about the program. They also expressed a strong desire to get more involved in incorporating what they had learned from the teaching methodologies introduced in these programs. Participants who attended the four in-country TTT programs have also established social media groups or have formed associations for environmental law teachers in their respective countries. This is a significant development as a result of the TTT Programs. During the infancy of these social media networks and associations, it is important that these law champions are continually supported by both ADB and the IUCNAEL in order to sustain these initiatives and to foster the durability of environmental law teaching beyond the next few years.
While the Train-the-Trainers program has made significant progress in inspiring and nurturing the environmental law champions who can spread awareness and knowledge of environment and climate change laws in Asia, much remains to be done within the law programs at the country level to maintain this effort:
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