Environmental Law and International Assistance: The Challenge of Strengthening Environmental Law in the Developing World

55 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2004 Last revised: 5 Dec 2014

See all articles by William L. Andreen

William L. Andreen

University of Alabama - School of Law


All too often there is a disturbing gap between what governments say and what governments do. The same appears to be true for international donors. During the past 10 years, the developing world has been awash with donor-funded national environmental action plans and national environmental programs, national conservation strategies, national biodiversity strategies, national agricultural programs, and national forestry action plans. These documents generally recognize that long-term economic development can only be sustained on an ecologically sound base. Many also purport to recognize that the policies and strategies that they set forth will remain empty pronouncements unless appropriate laws and institutional arrangements are put into place.

Law reform, however, is a difficult proposition. New laws are seldom written on a clean slate. Dozens of pertinent laws may already exist and a large number of government agencies may be responsible for their implementation. There are often serious regulatory gaps and overlapping grants of authority, laws which are not sensitive to local conditions, and, in many instances, a lack of administrative and legal capacity. Often these problems have not been thoroughly analyzed.

Legal drafting cannot take place in a vacuum. Accurate background studies must be prepared, and some consensus must be reached as to the kinds of reform that should be pursued. Otherwise, fine laws may be written only to gather dust. Unfortunately, donors and governments often pursue law reform in just such a vacuum. In fact, law reform appears to be just an afterthought in many cases, an exercise that is lightly staffed and lightly financed.

This must change. Law reform cannot be divorced from the process in which national environmental policy is articulated. Legal and institutional issues must inform that debate, and law reform, in turn, must be informed and guided by the resulting policy. In this way, environmental management can become an integrated whole rather than just a diverse collection of pieces. And through such a comprehensive approach, institutions can be shaped and strengthened in such a way that they will give life to the resulting legal regime.

The article discusses various elements of a legal reform process including the choice among framework statutes, comprehensive statutes, and sectoral legislation,and the article also contains an extensive discussion of the elements of an effective approach to Environmental Impact Assessment.

Keywords: Environmental Law and Policy, International Development, Environmental Impact Assessment, Sustainable Development

Suggested Citation

Andreen, William L., Environmental Law and International Assistance: The Challenge of Strengthening Environmental Law in the Developing World. Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 25, pp. 17-69, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=555482

William L. Andreen (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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