National environmental law is only effective in managing and protecting the environment when it is enforced, and the intended regulatory community complies. While many developing countries have put in place several pieces of national environmental legislation, enforcement remains a significant challenge owing to a lack of institutional capacity, competence among relevant officials and information and national guidance materials on enforcement. These challenges work to weaken the effectiveness of the law, resulting in environmental degradation. Some developing countries are more advanced than others in addressing challenges in enforcement. As a result, this project was designed to bring them together to share experiences and lessons learned in civil, criminal and administrative enforcement. Participating countries went on to generate and document best practices that could be used to build the capacity of other developing countries in the enforcement of national environmental laws.
Towards a Solution
The project entitled ‘Strengthening the Institutional Capacity of African and Asian Countries for the Enforcement of Environmental Legislation through South-South Cooperation’ provided a forum for developing countries to share experiences and learn lessons in addressing enforcement challenges and to generate and document good practices that could be replicated by other developing countries in addressing enforcement challenges. The meeting was highly interactive, and all participants fully engaged in sharing experience on various aspects of enforcement. During these deliberations, they generated a set of best practices, which enabled the pilot countries of Malawi, Nigeria and Viet Nam to develop their own national environmental laws and national institutional guidance materials. These best practices on enforcement have been widely disseminated online, thereby influencing institutional development beyond the targeted countries.
The second interregional initiative aimed to provide information to countries and institutions on promoting innovative enforcement action, calculating and compensating environmental damage and measuring enforcement. Examples of good practices in these three thematic areas were drawn from countries’ experiences in developing relevant mechanisms. The good practices are solutions that have been implemented in particular countries to address specific difficulties in enforcing environmental law and which have been successful in resolving those difficulties or have shown significant promise. These focus areas were chosen because the developing countries required some clarity.
The project’s major success was in enhancing the institutional capacities of countries to enforce environmental law. The set of best practices have been adopted by participating countries to strengthen institutions that were struggling with weak enforcement. The primary mechanism used throughout the project was the exchange of information. The good practices developed were documented, allowing individual countries to make use of the lessons. The project therefore facilitated peer-to-peer learning in strengthening the enforcement of laws among participating countries.
The United Nations Environment Programme was able to use the set of good practices to support enforcement efforts in a number of countries, imparting knowledge to enforcement officials on various potential solutions. For example, a training of trainers enforcement manual was developed in Malawi. In Viet Nam, a handbook was developed on environmental liabilities under environmental law and other types of law. In Nigeria, a new enforcement policy was also developed using this project’s results and funding.
South-South cooperation was central to the project. It was the means through which the entire project was implemented and the results were achieved. The best practices were documented in two volumes for reference and capacity-building and made available online for various users, including compliance and enforcement practitioners in developing countries, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the project.