World Commission on Environmental Law

Our Work

With a worldwide membership, WCEL not only takes the lead in projects of its own, but also provides a source of expertise for the Environmental Law Centre and other parts of IUCN. The Commission thus serves as the principal source of legal technical advice to the Union, its members and its collaborating institutions on all aspects of environmental law.

It supports action by international governmental organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations to improve or develop legal and institutional infrastructure best attuned to natural resources conservation in the context of sustainable development. WCEL's goal is to demonstrate the vital importance of such infrastructure within national and international strategies for environmental conservation, including the sustainable use of natural resources within and beyond national jurisdictions. 

Armed Conflict and the Environment

IUCN WCEL Armed Conflict and the Environment Specialist Group focuses on issues of the legal protection of the environment in times of armed conflict, the role of natural resources in post-conflict peace-building, and the international legal discourse related to environmental displacement and migration.

Brasília Declaration of Judges on Water Justice  The Brasília Declaration of Judges on Water Justice provides a set of ten principles for guiding the legal community worldwide for the protection of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems. 

Climate Change

IUCN WCEL Climate Change Specialist Group seeks to give policy and legal input to the IUCN and its members with respect to legal issues involving climate change and its adverse impacts.

Compliance and Enforcement

The IUCN WCEL Compliance and Enforcement Specialist Group concentrates on bridging the gap between increasingly comprehensive international and national environmental laws, and achieving their implementation.

Early Career Group

IUCN WCEL Early Career Group provides a cross-cutting platform for early career environmental lawyers, policy-makers, and scholars to develop innovative and integrated solutions to the future challenges of our planet.

Environmental Rule of Law

The IUCN World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law outlines 13 principles for developing and implementing solutions for ecologically sustainable development


IUCN WCEL Ethics Specialist Group is a global network of practitioners and scholars from across disciplines seeking to highlight the ethical issues in biodiversity conservation and specific natural resource controversies; and engage with diverse local and global partners to foster ethical engagement, bear witness to ethics in action, and share stories of success and failure.


The IUCN WCEL Forests Specialist Group leads collaboration around the world to build robust legal and policy measures that address challenges to global forest integrity.

Global Judicial Institute on the Environment

The mission of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment is to support the role of judges, courts, and tribunals to respond to pressing environmental crises.

Global Pact for the Environment

WCEL is leading IUCN's contributions toward establishing a Global Pact for the Environment.

Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Law

IUCN CEESP-WCEL Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Law Joint Specialist Group focuses on deepening awareness, providing analysis, and offering recommendations for conservation that takes into account indigenous peoples’ distinct human rights as it relates to their environment, lands, territories, and natural resources. 

Membership Activities

WCEL Members take an active role contributing to initiatives that achieve the objectives of the Commission.

Oceans, Coasts, and Coral Reefs

IUCN WCEL Oceans, Coasts, and Coral Reefs Specialist Group is the principal source of legal expert advice to strengthen IUCN’s delivery of solutions to address governance of the world’s marine areas.

Partner Highlights

WCEL’s focus on maximizing collaboration draws together the global environmental law community.

Soil, Desertification, and Sustainable Agriculture

IUCN WCEL Soil, Desertification, and Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Group focuses expertise around the world on the development of legal guidelines and explanatory material with special attention to the ecological function of soil, the prevention of desertification, and the role of sustainable agriculture systems for the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of human life.

Water and Wetlands

IUCN WCEL Water and Wetlands Specialist Group leads initiatives for the development and application of water law to achieve ecosystem protection at national, regional, and international levels.


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