What We Do
The core mission of ELAW is to help grassroots environmental lawyers working in their home countries protect the environment and communities through law. Environmental lawyers play key roles in helping communities pursue environmental justice. They teach citizens about their right to a healthy environment, help citizens participate in decisions about the environment, challenge environmental abuses, and enforce environmental laws. As corporations extend their reach around the globe, many small, remote communities bear unjust burdens. These communities must be able to speak out strongly to protect their environment, public health, and human rights. Grassroots advocates play a key role in helping communities speak out and ELAW gives these advocates the legal and scientific support they need to challenge abuses and build a sustainable future.
ELAW finds the most committed environmental defenders working in low-income communities and collaborates with them to pursue six major initiatives to advance environmental justice:
1. Providing critical legal tools. Lawyers around the world call on the ELAW U.S. staff for legal tools to strengthen and enforce environmental laws. ELAW attorneys collaborate with local advocates to bring enforcement actions, critique proposed statutes, and replicate model laws.
2. Providing critical scientific tools. Lawyers representing low-income communities rely on ELAW staff scientists to critique plans for proposed developments, develop systems to monitor environmental conditions, provide expert testimony, and recommend cleaner alternatives.
3. Strengthening organizations. ELAW helps advocates launch and strengthen organizations dedicated to pursuing justice and protecting the environment.
4. Hosting visiting Fellows. ELAW hosts visiting Fellows in Eugene, where they study U.S. environmental laws and receive training to help them build skills. In 2013, we hosted advocates from Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, India, Honduras, Kenya, Tanzania, Swaziland, and Mexico.
5. Outreach. ELAW seeks out committed, courageous environmental defenders. The ELAW network started with 10 lawyers in 1989 and has grown to serve more than 300 lawyers in 70 countries.
6. Protecting human rights of public interest lawyers. Lawyers challenging injustice often face serious risks. The ELAW network helps protect local advocates who face legal or other consequences for their advocacy.
7. Community Legal and Scientific Workshops. ELAW, working with local partners, convenes workshops to educate communities about legal and scientific tools citizens can use to challenge environmental abuses and defend their human right to clean air, water, food, and a sustainable economy. Community workshops help forge alliances between lawyers, conservation NGOs and citizens; build resolve to tackle imminent threats; and empower citizens with legal tools they can use to protect the environment.