You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT)’ tag. week I had the pleasure of joining 45 lawyers from East Africa to discuss how to defend the rights of communities threatened by the push for land and resources throughout the region.

With generous support from the Ford Foundation, ELAW partnered with Greenwatch in Uganda to host a workshop for lawyers from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  The aim was to help young lawyers gain the skills they need to defend the rights of communities threatened by extractive industries.

More experienced lawyers came to give presentations and share their expertise.  But they also came to forge ties with the next generation of lawyers and mentor lawyers just starting out.  They depended on experienced lawyers to help them as they got started, and now they are happy to help the next generation of lawyers.

We are also helping build relationships between young lawyers within each country and across borders, so they know they are not alone taking on powerful interests.

In addition to Greenwatch, ELAW partners at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) in Kenya and the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Tanzania helped organize the workshop.

I left the workshop inspired and full of hope and I believe that we all went away better prepared to defend the rights of communities threatened by unsustainable development.

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

Lead in paint is a potent neurological toxin.  Most industrialized countries have recognized the harm caused by childhood exposure to lead and enacted strict regulations to prohibit the use of lead in consumer products, especially paints.

In Tanzania, there are regulations in place but they are not enforced, and children continue being exposed to lead.

ELAW partners at the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) want to eliminate lead from paint in Tanzania.

ELAW’s legal and science teams are helping LEAT:

1.  Test paint samples.

2.  Document the harm caused by lead.

3.  Advocate for the enforcement of national regulations prohibiting lead in paint.

Adolf Runyoro, Legal Officer at LEAT, completed an ELAW Fellowship in October.  While here, Adolf worked with ELAW staff lawyers, scientists, and development professionals on this initiative and many others.

On his return to Dar es Salaam, Adolf sent test results from five paint samples to ELAW Staff Scientists for analysis.  The results were alarming: Each sample had dangerous levels of lead.

Using this information, LEAT is now working to:

1.  Eliminate lead in paint sold at stores.
2.  Prohibit the production and import of contaminated paint.
3.  Enact robust testing of manufactured and/or imported paint by government inspectors to ensure that consumer paints do not contain toxic metals.

In 2011, ELAW partners in Sri Lanka won a tremendous victory protecting children from toxic lead paint.  We hope to build on that victory and help ELAW partners in Tanzania do the same!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

Benedette & Adolf

Benedette and Adolf are enjoying their first visit to the U.S.

Kenyan attorney Benedette Mutuku and Tanzanian attorney Adolf Runyoro arrived in Eugene on Monday. These ELAW Fellows will work closely with the ELAW team to strengthen their organizations and tap legal and scientific resources.

Recent discoveries of oil in Turkana and minerals on Kenya’s coast are keeping us busy,” says Benedette.  “We need equitable sharing of benefits and public participation in decisions about natural resources.

Benedette is Law and Policy Project Officer at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG), based in Nairobi.

Adolf is Legal Officer at the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT), based in Dar es Salaam.  LEAT works to protect the environment, land, and natural resources.  Adolf’s current projects include safeguarding Tanzanians from leaded paint and collaborating with colleagues to protect the land rights of Maasai communities threatened by foreign interests seeking land for trophy hunting.

Benedette and Adolf are part of East Africa’s new generation of grassroots defenders. ELAW has worked with ILEG and LEAT for more than 10 years.

Many thanks to the Ford Foundation for making these ELAW Fellowships possible!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

In 1994, I had the pleasure of traveling to Africa for ELAW for the first time.  ELAW was looking for lawyers working to protect people’s right to live in a healthy environment.  We wanted to learn how we could support their efforts and help them connect with their colleagues around the world. During that trip, I met inspiring young lawyers in Kenya and Tanzania who, like me, had recently graduated from law school and were passionate about protecting communities and the environment.

Young advocates Harriet Bibangambah and Lourdel Twinomugisha from Greenwatch in Uganda

Young advocates Harriet Bibangambah and Lourdel Twinomugisha from Greenwatch in Uganda

Nearly 20 years later, I returned to work with those pioneering lawyers, now the experienced generation, to connect with the next generation of advocates representing the public interest through law. In the face of massive investments by extractive industries in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, these advocates are needed now more than ever.

Communities in Turkana County are among the most marginalized in Kenya. Hydropower projects in the Lake Turkana watershed have displaced communities and threatened the region’s already limited water supplies. Now, multinational corporations are beginning to pursue oil in this remote region, threatening to displace more communities and pollute water supplies. Communities in Kitui County, Kenya are facing eviction from their lands so companies can extract coal.  As demand for resources grows and the price for resources increase, the pressure to extract resources intensifies, and stories like these become more common.

That’s why ELAW is working with partners in these three East African countries to support lawyers working to help  communities understand their rights and defend and protect those rights.

Just over a week ago, ELAW and partners at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) in Kenya, the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Tanzania, and Greenwatch in Uganda hosted a workshop to help lawyers in the region meet the challenge of protecting communities impacted by natural resource extraction. We hoped 20 lawyers would attend the meeting. We were thrilled when 50 lawyers asked to join us:  Through this work we are building a global corps of grassroots advocates who will protect communities and the environment for years to come.

ELAW thanks the Ford Foundation for making it possible for us to reconnect with partners in the region and reach out to new lawyers.

Jennifer Gleason
Staff Attorney

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