ELAW Fellowships Unforgettable

ELAW Fellows are doing great work!  In February, we welcomed Francis Colee from Liberia, Kwesi Instiful from Ghana, and Merab Barbakadze from Georgia.  In March, we welcomed Mariana Méndez from Panama and Jean André Victor from Haiti.  ELAW Fellows dedicate their lives to seeking justice for the world’s most impoverished communities.  Before returning to Tblisi, Merab shared a common sentiment: “I feel myself charged with new positive energy, skills, and knowledge!” Read more about our recent Fellows in the following.

 Francis, Merab, and Kwesi at ELAW
Left to right: Francis Colee, Merab Barbakadze, and Kwesi Instiful

Kwesi Instiful is a lead attorney at the Center for Public Interest Law in Accra.  He represents residents living near gold mines in western Ghana.  Gold has been mined here for 100 years, but the villagers reap few benefits.  “There is no tap water, the roads are terrible, and all homes have cracks from the explosions.  You have your crops and the next day trucks move in and everything is gone,” says Kwesi.

Francis Colee works at Green Advocates, Liberia’s only public interest environmental law firm. Green Advocates is calling on Firestone to clean up polluting rubber processing facilities on the Farmington River.  Green Advocates is also working to strengthen laws protecting forests and other natural resources.

Kwesi and Francis spent two weeks at ELAW to build skills promoting sustainable mining, forestry and climate change practices and policies, thanks to a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Merab Barbakadze serves on the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention, a European body that ensures that citizens have a voice in decisions about the environment.  His ELAW Fellowship helped strengthen ties between Merab and ELAW partners around the world, thanks to support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Merab, Kwesi and Francis participated in the 28th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon School of Law and met one-on-one with many national and international environmental leaders, including ELAW partner and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh and Goldman Prize winner Marc Ona from Gabon.

They also benefited from environmental law and human rights classes at the University of Oregon School of Law and met with leading environmental lawyers in Oregon, including Doug Heiken at Oregon Wild and Dan Kruse at Cascadia Wildlands.  The Fellows traveled to Portand with ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason to hear Dan Kruse argue in front of the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Dan is defending a judgment that the U.S.  Forest Service is appealing.  Dan briefed the Fellows about the case before they departed.

 Mariana Méndez at ELAW
 Mariana Méndez

Mariana Méndez is an engineer working with El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) in Panama.  She had a busy 10 days at ELAW building skills and tapping scientific expertise to protect natural resources in Panama.

Mariana worked one-on-one with ELAW Staff Scientists and participated in conference calls with dam experts Rich Bower (Northwest Hydropower Reform Coalition), and Gary Carnefix and Chris Frissell (Pacific Rivers Council).  She also tapped the expertise of ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason on energy policy and issues concerning wind and other non-conventional renewable energy sources.

Mariana spoke with ELAW Director Glenn Miller, a mining expert at the University of Nevada at Reno, about phasing out hard rock mining in Panama.  They discussed strategies to advance a better legal framework for mining operations in Panama, how best to use mining policies and regulation models from other Latin American countries such as Chile, and ways to improve Environmental Impact Assessments.

Jean André is an environmental attorney, an agronomist, and a law professor.  Read more about his ELAW Fellowship in the summer ELAW Advocate.