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  • Writer's pictureInternational Lawyers Project

World Environment Day: Celebrating Environmental Pro Bono Work

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

To commemorate World Environment Day on 05 June 2023, the London office of Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) held a panel discussion relating to its sustainability initiatives. Speakers included representatives from The Earthshot Prize, International Lawyers Project (ILP), and Legal Response International, as well as HSF volunteers who have worked on projects relating to such matters.

Lucy Claridge, Executive Director of ILP, began by summarising the ILP’s mandate, emphasising that it is the ILP’s mobilisation of the passion and expertise of lawyers—via the provision of pro-bono legal assistance to those lacking access to justice, primarily in the Global South—which enables it to contribute to building a just and sustainable future. Such legal assistance was described by Claridge as spanning four program areas: anti-corruption, environment and sustainable development, tax and fiscal reform, and access to information and defending the civic space.

L-R: Jannis Bille (Associate, HSF), Lucy Claridge (Executive Director, International Lawyers Project), Chris Large (Fellowship Director, The Earthshot Prize)

As an overview, Claridge stated that in 2022, ILP had provided 5,400 hours of pro-bono support, valued at nearly £4 million, highlighting that the partnership with HSF had been key to these figures. As to the environmental sphere, an important example of ILP’s recent work was its provision of emergency legal support to a coalition of Kenyan conservation groups to respond to an unconstitutional attempt to repeal protection of Kenya’s forests—which essentially would have removed a core safeguard in Kenya’s forest laws, likely leading to mass destruction of Kenyan forests. ILP, Claridge said, assisted these coalitions in making parliamentary representations to propose international best practice, among others—eventually resulting in the successful blocking of the proposed repeal.

Another example, Claridge continued, was support provided by ILP to three villages in Kenya, wherein geothermal development by private corporations had been bedevilled by local conflicts and issues such as forced evictions, absence of compensation and consent, and pollution. ILP worked with these affected communities, empowering them by providing workshops on the rights of their members, as well as on negotiation and advocating skills.

With ILP being partner-led, Claridge emphasised that its partnership with organisations focuses on finding the most holistic (rather than merely legalistic) response to a particular issue. In addition, its composition—majority of its staff are lawyers—allows for ILP to more narrowly tailor its responses to specific issues. Being aware of the areas of expertise of particular volunteer lawyers likewise enables ILP to determine the most suitable legal team for specific topics.

Other speakers include: Chris Large (Fellowship Director, The Earthshot Prize), Olivia Tattarletti (Coordinator, Legal Response International), Ernst Müller (Senior Associate, HSF) and Charles Wong (Senior Associate, HSF). The event was moderated by Jannis Bille (Associate, HSF).


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