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MEPIELAN Centre as a Founding Member of the Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA) and a Founding Voice of the  Siena Declaration of Solidarity
(University of Siena, Italy, 12-13 October 2017)

MEPIELAN Centre, represented by its Director Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos, participated in the ELGA’s (Ecological Law and Governance Association) European Launch Meeting taken place in the University of Siena, in Siena, Italy, from 12 to 13 October 2017. The launch of ELGA was prepared by a two-day Working Group Meeting (11-12 October) that brought together 25 experts from 15 countries and from across disciplines, including law, philosophy, science, land use planning, and journalism. The Working Group provided input into the 2018-2020 ELGA Strategy Plan, including substantive and procedural organizational development (mission, vision, and principles), and program priorities. The 2-day meeting included a World Café style “Wisdom Café, which saw participants pondering various questions, resulting in a multiplicity of ideas for future exploration. 

The Working Group meeting first explored the foundations of ELGA in an open discussion. At his introductory statement to the Working Group, the Director of MEPIELAN Centre Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos presented the multifarious work of MEPIELAN in research, education and training in the realm of international environmental law, governance and negotiation and its potential contribution to ELGA as a transformative collective effort oriented towards ‘ecological law and governance’ approach. He emphasized that MEPIELAN Centre, from its inception, consistently elaborated and promoted “a relational approach” to, and “a process understanding” of international environmental law and governance. Such an approach inescapably calls for “contextuality” and “integrated legal thinking and acting” that paves the way for an ecological conceptualization of the law and policy governing the nature, an earth-centered approach to law.  He also underlined the international role and contribution of MEPIELAN Centre in the Mediterranean as an officially accredited partner to UNEP/MAP Secretariat of the Barcelona Convention and a newly elected Non-Contracting Member of the 40-member Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) representing the Scientific Community Group, where it mainly advocates: the educational dimension of environmental governance; the promotion of a trusteeship approach to environmental governance, and especially the development of the “public trust approach”; and, the importance of understanding international environmental negotiation as a treaty governance process preparing, constituting and revising international common interest. The above approaches and ideas formed the background for the interactive contribution of MEPIELAN to the discussion in the “Wisdom Café” and highlighted the pros and cons of the common inputs into the 2018-2020 ELGA Strategy Plan.

On Friday, 13 October 2017, the ELGA was launched at the Santa Chiara Lab of the University of Siena. The launch of ELGA was opened by Rector Francesco Frati of the University of Siena, followed by a welcome address from the Siena Town Councilor for Environmental Protection, Paolo Mazzini. 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 focused on the practical and theoretical foundations of ELGA, its partners, its principles, and the role of ethics in ecological law and governance. The Working Group Meeting confirmed that ELGA has its origins in the 2016 Oslo Manifesto for Ecological Law and Governance, which 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. Building on the Oslo Manifesto approach, the Working 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.

The Working Group further discussed the structure and the text of the ELGA’s 2018-2020 Strategy Plan, containing its unique mission, its framework for transforming the current paradigm of human-centered law and governance to Earth-centered law and governance, ELGA objectives (Building the network, Building partnerships, Fostering dialogue between ecological lawyers and 
the current system, Capacity building and education, Advising and influencing decision makers) and outcomes, ELGA’s priority Programmes (Principles and components of ecological law and governance, Reconciling human rights with ecological law, Ethics and ecological law, Economics and ecological law, Equity and ecological systems), ELGA’s Projects, and ELGA’s Organizational structure,  Communication Strategy, and Fundraising and Budget Strategy.

Finally, the Working Group, after a detailed discussion, drafted the Siena Declaration of Solidarity  as an addendum to the Oslo Manifesto. 

Siena Declaration of Solidarity

Composed at the European Launch of the Ecological Law and Governance Association 
October 13, 2017

Individuals and organizations from around the world gathered in celebration on October 13th, 2017 at the University of Siena in Italy to launch the Ecological Law and Governance Association: a global, multi-disciplinary network of professionals and practitioners that seeks to transform law and governance to better protect the foundations of life.

This association, known as ELGA, has its origins in the 2016 Oslo Manifesto for Ecological Law and Governance, a call to action to reframe law and governance “from environmental law to ecological law.” This document not only detailed the need for such a transformation but provided a roadmap to do so. ELGA is a realization of the Oslo Manifesto.

The Oslo Manifesto also laid the groundwork for the Strategic Plan of ELGA. When experts from across disciplines joined in Siena, not only did they celebrate the launch of ELGA, but they provided input into the substance and process of realizing a new framework for governance. The participants in Siena are therefore among the founding voices of ELGA, directly contributing to its Strategic Plan, guiding the way forward.

In the Sala dei Nove in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena is The Allegory of Good and Bad Government, painted in the early 14th century by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The frescos consist of scenes depicting good and bad government, and its effects in the city and the country. In the spirit of these civic-led depictions of law and governance, and the virtues of Good Governance that they advance, namely, Peace, Fortitude, Prudence, Magnanimity, Temperance, and Justice, the participants of the Working Group and Launch of ELGA stand together, and in solidarity
  • RECOGNIZE the urgency to act now to address global ecological crises;
  • ACKNOWLEDGE that the current structure and implementation of environmental law and governance is not adequately protecting the foundations of life;
  • CHALLENGE notions of state sovereignty without global responsibility, the concept of growth without limits, fields of economics not rooted in ecological realities, and negotiation practices that fail to recognize power imbalances and the foundational necessities of life on Earth;
  • BEAR WITNESS to a global movement toward ecological law in practices, principles, policies, laws, constitutions, and courts around the world;
  • EMPHASIZE the indispensable need to provide a platform for, and an amplifier to, these existing local, regional, national, and global initiatives that advance principles of ecological law and governance;
  • CALL for a new comprehensive, holistic framework, a new societal, legal, and governance structure, that promotes, protects, and restores Earth’s systems for the sustainability and flourishing of all life;
  • ADVANCE the hope, the truth, and the justice that only an Earth-centered approach to law and governance, in harmony with nature, can offer.
This new framework for law and governance:
  • PROMOTES the entire Earth, the ecological whole, in decision-making;
  • VIEWS humans as a part of ecosystems, and not separate from them;
  • RECOGNIZES the level of specificity and contextuality needed in knowledge and practice to ensure the health of  ecosystems;
  • PROMOTES ecological literacy and education that unites disciplines with a common ecological understanding and a new language, with a trans-disciplinary and systematic approach, and strong ties between science and law;
  • RECOGNIZES the limits to human understanding;
  • ADVANCES the precautionary principle;
  • ADVOCATES an Earth democracy philosophy, where everyone in our societies has a role to play as ecological citizens;
  • UNDERSTANDS the critical importance of voices and experiences from local and indigenous communities that live in harmony with nature;
  • VIEWS that individuals, organizations, government entities, and sovereign States are global agents of nature protection;
  • RECOGNIZES the need to adjust notions of state sovereignty, where the whole shapes the parts and the parts shape the whole, while avoiding any part to undermine the whole;
  • UNDERSTANDS that common property and state sovereignty can co-exist;
  • REDEFINES the commons as the entire Earth system, not simply the leftovers of state sovereignty;
  • RECOGNIZES the need for new processes of decision-making, giving nature a voice at the table, and addressing the failure of negotiation procedures to protect the foundations of life;
  • ADVANCES legal mechanisms that prioritize preserving ecosystem functionality in decision-making and give non-governmental organizations and individuals the rights to represent nature;
  • ADVOCATES for the rights of nature, and the further development of their scale, scope, and practice;
  • IMPLEMENTS and EXPANDS the constitutional right to a healthy environment;
  • REQUIRES that actions in the short-term be constrained by the need to preserve the life supporting properties of the Earth, its systems, the biosphere and its ecosystems in the long-term; and
  • ADVANCES social and economic development based on sound ecological principles.
A revolution in thinking, a re-imagination of the mind, with a new language, are needed. We shall work together to define ecological law and promote a real workable vision for the future. There are stories of success around the world, indicators of change occurring, but we also know that there are very powerful forces working at the destruction of health, of life, of life systems. We do not face our challenges blindly. We face them together, with truth, justice, and courage.

Everything in nature is connected, and we, as humans, as citizens of Earth, must strive to connect every decision we make to its impacts on nature. Ecological causes are life causes and we come together in solidarity for the future of life.

We, the undersigned, as founding voices of ELGA, bear witness to this Declaration of Solidarity

Christine Ax, M.A., Scientific Author, Germany
Prof. Klaus Bosselmann, Chair, Ethics Specialist Group, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Peter Burdon, Associate Professor, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide, Australia
Guillaume Chapron, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Professor Lynda Collins, Centre for Environmental Law & Global Sustainability, University of Ottawa, Canada
Cormac Cullinan, Wild Law Institute, South Africa and Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Prof. Dra. Cristiane Derani, Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
Professor Duncan French, University of Lincoln, UK
Alessandro Galli, Executive Board member of the Common Home of Humanity and Mediterranean Programme Director at Global 
Footprint Network
Geoffrey Garver, PhD, Part-time professor, McGill University and Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Kathryn Gwiazdon, Esq., Executive Director, Center for Environmental Ethics and Law, USA and Deputy Chair, Ethics Specialist Group, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law
Polly Higgins, Director, Ecological Defence Integrity, UK
Katarina Hovden, Nature’s Rights, UK
Jörg Leimbacher, Dr. iur., Bern, Switzerland
Paulo Magalhães, Centre for Legal and Economic Research (CIJE), University of Porto, Portugal, and Chair of Steering Committee of the Common Home of Humanity Initiative.
Dr Michelle Maloney, Australian Earth Laws Alliance
Lisa Mead, Director, Earth Law Alliance, UK
Prof. Massimiliano Montini, Regulation for Sustainability (R4S) Research Group, University of Siena, Italy
Dr. Michèle PERRIN-TAILLAT, France, Author of draft projects aiming to implement Human Duties in order to respect 
Nature/Earth Rights and Human Rights
Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos, Director, MEPIELAN Centre, Panteion University, Athens, Greece
Dr. Moritz Reese, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany
Morena Rizzo, Trustee, Nature’s Rights, UK
Colin D. Robertson, Luxembourg, Lawyer-linguist, formerly with Council of the European Union, Legal Service, Directorate for Quality of Legislation
Prue Taylor, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Debbie Tripley, on behalf of the Planetary Boundaries Initiative, Director of Environmental Policy and Advocacy (WWF-UK)
Francesca Volpe, PhD, University of Siena, Italy
Dr. Georg Winter, Haus der Zukunft / House of the Future, Hamburg, Germany
Dr. Olivia Woolley, Lecturer in Energy and Environmental Law, School of Law, University of Aberdeen

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