Legal indicators: issues and prospects

Protection of the environment relies upon the effective application of existing environmental law at international, national, regional and local level. The application of this law involves a complex legal process involving many parties; administration and regulatory bodies, economic stakeholders, legal professions, scientific experts, environmental protection agencies. Yet environmental law is too often insufficiently enforced on the ground. How do we know this, and what is the remedy? The answer lies in legal indicators.

The Normandy Chair for Peace is working on the issue of Future Generational law together with the scientific support of the International Centre for Comparative Environmental Law (CIDCE), an international NGO and official partner of the United Nations, and the Société Ingénierie et Conseil de Nouvelle Aquitaine (Engineering and Consultancy Firm in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region). Together they are carrying out operational research to provide regions, states and the UN with a new tool to evaluate public policies.

From March to June 2020 a group of fourteen experts met together by videoconference on six occasions to discuss the methodology to be used in testing the legal indicators. The group was made up of five experts from Brazil, as well as others from Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Tunisia,

The 2020 test will focus on two key examples: a specific area that is protected at national level[1] and the sustainable development goal that focuses on aquatic life and the oceans (SDG 14). The aim is to create appropriate indicators to assess the law that can be applied at international, national and  regional level. The following countries were included: Brazil, France (Normandy region), Portugal and Tunisia. A questionnaire will be sent to local and national representatives that regularly apply the law that relates to these two examples. A publication covering legal indicators is under way and will be published in French, English and Spanish.

In 2021, the programme will continue to address other areas of environmental law and the SDGs, in order to work towards guaranteeing human rights and the rights of future generations.

Specific attention will be given to the legal indicators that can be applied to implement both the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, as well as the Escazú Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.The ultimate aim of the programme is to obtain United Nations endorsement of an ad hoc set of legal indicators applicable in particular to those SDGs that relate to the environment and to the rights of future generations.


[1] Brazil: Carijos Federal Ecological Reserve in Florianopolis; France: Cerisy Forest National Reserve (Normandy); Portugal: Ramsar Nature Reserve and Natura 2000 Paul de Arzila (Arzila Bog); Tunisia: Ichkeul National Park.


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