2 March 2020
Clifford Chance carries out its most extensive pro-bono project in collaboration with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur to research the right to a healthy environment
International law firm Clifford Chance announces its collaboration with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice ("Vance Center") in New York to conduct and co-ordinate a major international pro-bono project on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Dr David Boyd.
The project, which is Clifford Chance's most extensive pro-bono project to date, involved conducting a global survey to determine which of the 193 UN Member States recognise the human right to a healthy environment at either the national or sub-national level under domestic law.
Beginning in November 2018, the project brought together over 90 Clifford Chance lawyers, trainees, paralegals and members of the Best Delivery team from 27 offices across five continents, working in collaboration with lawyers from over 100 other firms globally; each contributing their time and expertise on a pro-bono basis. The team surveyed and researched approximately 140 UN member states, with the remaining jurisdictions being analysed by the Vance Center, in coordination with other participating law firms, and Dr Boyd.
The survey findings were used by Dr Boyd to prepare a report, titled "Right to a healthy environment: good practices", that was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today. The report describes the good practices followed by UN member states in recognising the right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and in implementing the procedural and substantive elements of the right. Dr Boyd concluded that this right is now recognised in law by more than 80 per cent (156 out of 193) of member states.
Clifford Chance Lawyer Carla Lewis said, "Clifford Chance's participation in the project demonstrates the committed and collaborative relationship among our lawyers, the Vance Center and the UN Special Rapporteur."
Janet Whittaker, Senior Counsel at Clifford Chance, stated that: "This project builds on the extensive international environmental and climate change work that team members have collaborated on previously with the Vance Center, including for the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Professor John Knox."
Dr Boyd said, "I am immensely grateful to Clifford Chance, the Vance Center, and all of the legal experts who made this gargantuan research project possible. The results provide strong support for the United Nations to pass a pioneering resolution recognizing that everyone, everywhere, has a fundamental human right to live in a healthy environment."
Susan M. Kath, Director of the Environment Program at the Vance Center, said "We are pleased to have worked with Clifford Chance to carry out this unparalleled multijurisdictional research. We hope the research will further the discussion around global environmental and human rights, and ensure protection of the fundamental principles of environmental law. Despite the progress made to date, there is still a lot of work to be done to fully recognise the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment. The report and the subsequent discussions at the local, national and supranational levels, will ensure that the topic remains a priority and that we build legal capacity and knowledge."
The survey reinforces Clifford Chance's commitment to carrying out pro-bono work across its network. In 2019, the firm collaborated with 112 clients and significant civil actors, and its people spent over 56,500 hours doing pro-bono and voluntary work.
The survey also reflects the firm's emphasis on creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly world.
Carla Lewis added, "Human rights and the environment are at the forefront of the news agenda, and are a priority for the firm and for many of our clients. We are committed to encouraging widespread responsible business and sustainable practices."
Last year, Clifford Chance established a global '2030' environmental network, which was inspired by the UN Sustainable Development goals and celebrates the firm's sustainability work, whether this be fee-earning work, pro bono and community projects locally and internationally, or office initiatives aimed at reducing our own environmental footprint.
More information on Clifford Chance's pro-bono and sustainability efforts can be found in the latest edition of its Responsible Business Report. A copy of the report and supporting annexes can be found on the OHCHR's website.