1D – Legislation & society

Supporting article D: Environmental legislation is only meaningful when civil society participates


Western Cape Environmental Law Centre: Invitation to a Consultative Workshop
February 2009


An active civil society is a key component in any effective environmental management system. In
South Africa, civil society capacity to participate effectively in the implementation of environmental
legislation is limited as a result of, amongst other things, complex environmental legislation and processes, coupled with lack of access to funding and legal advice. The lack of effective participation
in environmental decision-making and the lack of ability to hold government accountable for enforcement of environmental legislation have been identified repeatedly as a factors contributing to
unsustainable development, unwise natural resource management and lax environmental conservation in South Africa.

For some years, various key role players in the environmental sector have contemplated the possibility of setting up an independent legal centre or legal advice bureau that would:
• empower civil society (through NGOs and CBOs) to participate in the development of new environmental legislation and in environmental planning decisions, to ensure implementation
of and compliance with environmental legislation, and to seek redress in the face of poor environmental decision-making processes and overtly unlawful activities; and
• Raise awareness and understanding of local, provincial and national environmental rights and legislation, thereby promoting environmentally sound and sustainable development lifestyles.
The process so far

With funding from the WWF’s Table Mountain Fund and coordination by WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) – and with assistance and input from other partners in the environmental sector – a project has been developed to address these problems through the creation of an independent Environmental Law Centre or Advice Bureau for the Western Cape.

In January 2009, a project steering committee was constituted and a consultant (Melissa Fourie) was appointed to do the consultation, preparation and fundraising required to establish the first
Environmental Law Centre in South Africa here in the Western Cape. The model identified for implementation in the Western Cape may in future serve as a blueprint that may be replicated in
centers throughout South Africa. As part of this process we would like to consult broadly with partners in the environmental sector, in the form of a single-day workshop.
Purpose of workshop

The purpose of the workshop is to obtain comprehensive input on the needs of those institutions that will be clients of a Western Cape Environmental Law Centre (ELC).

Questions that we would like to ask your NGO or CBO include:

• What kind of assistance does your NGO/CBO most need from an Environmental Law Centre?
• What should the Centre be called?
• Should it be a completely separate institution, or can it be housed within an existing institution?
• Where in the Western Cape should the ELC be based?
• How would you like to access information from the ELC?
• What suggestions or ideas do you have on the sustainable financing for such a Centre or Bureau?


The same workshop will be held during February at three centers in the Western Cape:
• Saldanha: 13 February 2009, from 10:00 to 13:00 (RSVP by 9 February 2009)
• Cape Town: 17 February 2009, from 10:00 to 13:00 (RSVP by 10 February 2009)
• George: 26 February 2009, from 10:00 to 13:00 (RSVP by 19 February 2009)

A Consultation Document will be circulated shortly, along with details of the venue for each workshop.
If your NGO or CBO is unable to attend any of the three workshops, you are still welcome to send your comments on the Consultation Document to the contact details below.
RSVP and comments to: mfourie@fastmail.fm
mfourie@fastmail.fm or 072 306 8888