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“Vance Center has been a terrific partner in our work on coral reef protection. Through their knowledge and networks, we have received critical pro bono legal analysis from lawyers across Latin America and the Caribbean and as far away as Australia and Tanzania. Their staff has also contributed legal work to each phase of the project, in addition to managing the work of the pro bono lawyers. The project will ultimately propose innovative actions to effectively protect coral ecosystems in the Americas."

Haydée Rodríguez, Attorney - Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense


The Environment Program promotes collaboration to address environmental challenges through advocacy, research, innovative solutions, and conscientious stewardship of natural resources.  Protection of our environment demands cooperation across borders and even continents by civil society organizations, governments, and the private sector. Working with international and regional environmental NGOs, we incubate and implement cross-jurisdictional pro bono legal projects to advance the missions of these NGOs. We seek to promote environmental sustainability by:

collaborating with environmental NGOs to develop and implement projects that augment their knowledge and capacity and magnify the impact of their work;

assembling and coordinating multi-jurisdictional teams of pro bono lawyers to take on these projects with us;

advising our environmental NGO clients on legal and organizational strategy;

promoting cooperation on environmental sustainability issues among NGOs, governments, and the private-sector.

Current clients of the Program include environmental organizations in Latin America and U.S.-based international environmental organizations working throughout the world.  Our projects reflect the diversity of our clients and span a variety of areas including land, marine, and biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, toxic waste remediation, and sustainable development. The Program is also providing legal support to the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.

The Program’s projects involve or have recently involved teams of lawyers from 9 U.S.-based global law firms and 22 law firms working in a wide range of jurisdictions including Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Examples of Vance Center Environmental Sustainability Projects:

Best Practices for Toxic Site Remediation Legislation: A leading environmental boutique law firm in New York has collaborated with pro bono counsel in seven Latin American nations and staff at the Vance Center to produce a report for use in advising governments and decision-makers throughout the region on the best legal mechanisms for addressing remediation of legacy toxic contamination.  The report sets forth a detailed list of regulatory components that should be included in legislation, based on laws and practices that have proven effective in Latin America well as “lessons learned” from U.S. experience.

Marine Reef Preservation: The Vance Center is working with a regional Latin American environmental NGO and a large team of attorneys from all over the world on a two-phase project to improve protections for marine reef ecosystems throughout Latin America.  In the first phase of the project, environmental attorneys in the U.S. and 15 other nations will analyze effective laws and practices in various jurisdictions relating to protection of reefs, as well as determine the weaknesses that need to be addressed in existing legal frameworks in various Latin American nations.  U.S. attorneys will compile a “Guide to Legislative Approaches for Reef Conservation,” which will contain model legislative and regulatory tools.  In the second phase, the NGO will implement advocacy strategies developed during the first phase in collaboration with the Vance Center and local NGOs in Latin American nations to urge decision-makers to adopt more effective laws.

UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment: The Vance Center is working with a team of lawyers from U.S. law firms to provide legal research and analysis to John Knox, the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.  The purpose of the project is to develop a comprehensive body of jurisprudence on human rights and the environment for use by the Independent Expert in preparing a series of reports required by the UN mandate. To accomplish this, pro bono attorneys and Vance Center Staff are conducting a thorough review and analysis of human rights obligations contained in, or referenced by, international environmental instruments, as well as analyzing obligations and references related to the environment within international human rights instruments.

Preventing Illegal Logging in Peru: The Vance Center is assisting a leading Peruvian environmental organization with its efforts to promote compliance with regulations regarding the export of timber from Peru and the import of timber to the United States, in order to prevent illegal logging in Peru’s forests.  The project involves lawyers in Peru and the United States analyzing applicable laws and regulations, and will ultimately result in a comprehensive legal study as well as a step-by-step guide to provide members of the timber industry in Peru with clear instructions for compliance with these sometimes complex regulations.

Land Conservation in Southern Chile: The Vance Center has engaged a top Chilean law firm to provide strategic advice to an international conservation NGO regarding options under Chilean law for obtaining official protected status to preserve the unique ecological value, including significant peat resources, of a large tract of land owned by the NGO in Southern Chile.

OAS Judicial Capacity Building on Environmental Law: A team composed of lawyers at a major U.S. law firm and staff from the Vance Center are collaborating with the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States on a project to prepare an environmental law and procedure handbook and a training curriculum for a series of capacity-building events for Latin American judges who handle environmental cases.