2009 International Environmental Law Award Recipients – CIEL Co-Founders & United Nations Environment Programme


The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is pleased to award the annual CIEL International Environmental Law Award to the four co-founders of CIEL, James Cameron, Wendy Dinner, Philippe Sands and Durwood Zaelke. The award is also being given to Barbara Shaw, who has been an essential element of CIEL since its founding. Without the vision, dedication and hard work of these individuals, CIEL would not exist today or be able to perform the extraordinary work for which it is renowned all over the world.

CIEL is also honored to present a Special CIEL International Environmental Law Award to the United Nations Environment Programme for its long-standing work developing, fostering and implementing international and domestic environmental law. This is the first time that CIEL has bestowed an award to an institution.


About the Founders

CIEL was conceived at the Tabard Inn, a small, appropriately intimate meeting place frequented by Washington’s non-profit community. Two American attorneys with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and two British barristers specializing in international law met to share a bottle of wine and a growing sense of frustration about the limits of domestic environmental law. Despite 20 years of effort and victories in many important national environmental battles, the environmental movement was still losing the war. The new battleground was the globe, and if law were going to be an effective force for environmental protection, a new weapon was sorely needed.

“Even before the second bottle of wine was finished,” said Durwood Zaelke, one of the Sierra Club attorneys, “we knew what we needed to do. The scholarly and formal field of international law and diplomacy needed to join forces with the public interest advocacy movement.” The four lawyers soon decided to form a new organization specializing in international environmental law. The group would embrace all the relevant players – not only sovereign states, but also NGOs and individuals – and, with hope, lead to new cooperation on environmental concerns that transcend national boundaries, including global warming, water pollution, and deforestation.¬†(Excerpted from the Environmental Forum, September/October 1989.)

Barbara Shaw has also been present from the beginning and has been essential to CIEL’s continued vitality. She was CIEL’s first financial controller and secretary and now chairs CIEL’s Audit Committee.


About James Cameron

Mr. Cameron is a founding partner and chairman of the Advisory Board of Climate Change Capital, an independent merchant banking group providing financial services and products to organizations affected by the convergence of laws and policies on energy and the environment. Climate Change Capital is Europe’s first financial institution dedicated to the establishment of technologies, projects and financial instruments that facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Mr. Cameron also serves as chairman of the Carbon Disclosure Project, which was launched in December 2000 and is recognized as the largest registry of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and the primary global corporate greenhouse gases process which can be used to set target levels and rate companies’ performances. Mr. Cameron has held a number of academic positions, including research fellow at the Research Centre for International Law, Cambridge; Director of Studies in Law at Clare Hall, Cambridge; professor of law at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium; and visiting professor at the Australian Centre for Environmental Law, University of Sydney. He continues to be a visiting research scholar at the Yale Center for Environmental Law. Mr. Cameron is a regular media commentator on matters of climate change, renewable energy and environmental law.


About Wendy Dinner

Ms. Dinner is a senior attorney with The Nature Conservancy in Boulder, Colorado. She has devoted the past 23 years to working as a public interest environmental lawyer, first with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, where she served as a law fellow in the Washington, D.C. office, followed by four years as an assistant field solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior in San Francisco, where she served as legal counsel for the National Park Service’s Western Region parks. One of her primary responsibilities for the Park Service was to assist in the transfer of the Presidio of San Francisco to the National Park Service as part of the Presidio’s swords-to-plowshares conversion from a former military base to a National Park unit.

Ms. Dinner also provided ongoing environmental and other legal advice to various western national parks, including Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and King’s Canyon, Death Valley, Lake Mead, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Since 1998, Ms. Dinner has worked for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Colorado, serving as a regional attorney for TNC’s various Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest states. As part of TNC’s in-house counsel staff, she assists with the conservation of critical habitat, landscapes, and plant and animal communities across New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Alaska.

She also helped with the birth of TNC’s Program to protect threatened grassland habitats and species in Mongolia. Outside of work as an environmental attorney, Ms. Dinner serves as a personal and educational mentor to 15 young refugee women who escaped the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Eastern Kenya and the civil war in Southern Sudan to begin new lives in Boulder, Colorado.


About Philippe Sands

Mr. Sands is a professor of law and director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at University College, London and a key member of staff at the Centre for Law and the Environment. His teaching areas include public international law, the settlement of international disputes including arbitration, and environmental and natural resources law. He is a regular commentator on the BBC and CNN and has been a visiting professor at the University of Toronto, the University of Melbourne, and Université de Paris I at the Sorbonne.

He has held academic positions at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, King’s College London, University of Cambridge and was a Global Professor of Law at New York University. He was co-founder of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) and established the programs on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. As a practicing barrister he has extensive litigation experience before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and the European Court of Justice. Mr. Sands frequently advises governments, international organizations, NGOs and the private sector on aspects of international law. He has authored a number of publications pertaining to international law, environmental and natural resources law, and torture.


About Barbara Shaw

Ms. Shaw is the founder of the Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF), whose mission is to improve the literacy, health and economic status of the Maasai women in Kenya through education. MGEF works in partnership with the community, the local area chiefs and women advocates for the education of girls and to address social and cultural institutions, such as early marriage, female circumcision, etc., which sustain illiteracy among women, perpetuate poverty, and result in the marginalization of the Maasai in Kenya. Ms. Shaw became interested in this project in 1999 when she began a photography project to document the Maasai culture. She lived with the Maasai people, observed their daily routines and, through meeting the children and young girls, discovered the urgent need to better their lives through education, scholarships, community teaching and involvement.


About Durwood J. Zaelke

Mr. Zaelke is the president and founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and serves as director of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), a global network of environmental practitioners dedicated to raising awareness of compliance and enforcement issues. He is also the founder and director of the Research Program on International and Comparative Environmental Law at American University Washington College of Law, where he teaches International Environmental Law and Policy.

Mr. Zaelke serves on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee and served on the U.S. delegation to the Seattle Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. Mr. Zaelke was director of the International Program with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, as well as the director of the Washington, D.C. and Alaska offices where his litigation helped conserve important resources in national forests.

He was a special litigation attorney with the Department of Justice, where his responsibilities included designing the federal government’s initial hazardous waste enforcement strategy. Mr. Zaelke was also a staff attorney with the Environmental Law Institute. He has authored a number of publications on environmental compliance and sustainable development, international law and policy, trade and global warming.


About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

CIEL is presenting “A Special Award for Distinguished, Longstanding Contributions to the Development of International Environmental Law” to the United Nations Environment Programme in recognition of its extraordinary accomplishments and contributions to the development and implementation of domestic and international law. The law program has been one of UNEP’s shining achievements. To take one example, the Montevideo Programme for the Development of Environmental Law has fostered the creation and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol of Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and provided capacity building and other expertise with respect to domestic environmental law.

The United Nations Environment Programme was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. Its mission is “to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without comprising that of future generations.”

Under the overall framework of the Program for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law (Montevideo Programme) the following services are provided:

  • catalyzing progressive development of environmental law aiming at sustainable development
  • providing legal technical assistance and capacity-building training to developing countries to strengthen their capacity to develop and enforce environmental law
  • making information accessible through on-line data base and publications to promote wider appreciation of environmental law