01 Nov 2018 Blogpost Environmental rights and governance

Enhancing the capacity of Bhutan judges on environmental adjudication


UN Environment, in a bid to strengthen institutions and enhance the capacity of judges on matters concerning environmental law, has partnered with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to support the High Court of Bhutan to enhance the capacity of judges from across Bhutan to review and improve draft rules of environmental adjudication.

The initiative began recently through a two-day workshop on environmental adjudication held in Thimphu, Bhutan, from 19 to 20 July 2018, which helped enhance the technical capacity of 40 judges from across Bhutan, together with legal focal points of the National Environment Commission, in environmental law. Technical presentations and facilitated group work was delivered by senior judges and environmental law experts from across the region and globally.

The meeting also allowed The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Bhutan, high-level speakers, as well as staff members, to discuss partnership opportunities with the recently established Jigme Singye Wangchuck (JSW) School of Law, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office in Bhutan, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board.

The National Environmental Commission informed the staff members that they would like to explore the drafting of a framework climate law for Bhutan. It was agreed to continue this conversation in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme. Other partnership proposals from the United Nations Development Programme included possible joint support to Jigme Singye Wangchuck to develop an environmental law curriculum, as well as a possible joint support to develop an environmental law curriculum for the judicial training institute. This work would also be done in partnership with the Asian Development Bank.

This partnership will facilitate rich exchange of information on the purpose and content of draft rules of procedure and help identify several suggested areas for improvement. The suggestions include giving more options and flexibility on remedies, greater clarity on jurisdiction scope and relationship with existing rules of procedure, and greater access to environmental expertise in the adjudication process. Many of the topics and suggestions were directly informed by UN Environment’s publication on Green Courts and Tribunals that identified best-practice considerations. The draft rules of procedure will also likely formalize the intention of the Supreme Court to allow public interest environmental litigation in Bhutan.The Asian Development Bank and UN Environment will prepare written recommendations with a mark-up of the draft rules of procedure and provide them to the High Court for consideration.  

This partnership will also catalyse the possibility of developing a climate law for Bhutan as well as more opportunities to support development of environmental law curriculums with the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law and the country’s judicial training institute.

For more information please contact Saranya Rojananuangnit