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Season’s Greetings from the Centre for Environmental Rights

14 December 2011 at 12:31 am

Staff at the CER in 2011, plus a few babies! In back: Robyn Hugo, Dina Townsend, Junaid Francis and Zulfa Mohammed. In front: Melissa Fourie and Christine Reddell. Absent: Andy Gubb

The Centre for Environmental Rights team would like to wish all our partners, clients, funders and stakeholders a peaceful and reinvigorating festive season. Below is a brief overview of our highlights of 2011, and what lies ahead in 2012.

This year, the CER:

  • represented communities, community organisations and environmental NGOs in more than seven substantive cases
  • instituted its first two court applications, both to enforce rights of access to environmental information
  • made two submissions to the Minister of Mineral Resources, one on the proposed amendments to the MPRDA, and one on the declaration of important areas as prohibited from prospecting and mining
  • continued its work on coordination of the Civil Society Legal Strategy on Environmental Compliance, Transparency and Accountability in mining, which included the amazing Litigation Review completed by Prof Tracy Humby at the Wits Law School;
  • ramped up its work on promoting greater transparency and access to information in environmental governance
  • undertook two series of community environmental rights workshops through our joint Promoting Participation programme with WESSA: one on proposed shale gas fracking in the Karoo, and one on the impact of development on water resources in the Nylsvley Floodplain, Limpopo
  • participated in the start of the development of a joint strategy to promote responsible management of virgin land
  • started a new project on industrial pollution, waste and land use for partners groundWork, the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
  • continued its advocacy on acid mine drainage, including working to secure the release of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team Report on AMD and a submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the historical legal liability of mining companies for AMD
  • started preparations for a new water governance project
  • has built up its Virtual Environmental Law Library to 86 items, including legislation, case law, government reports and Parliamentary Q&As
  • accumulated 440 subscribers on its website, 163 Facebook fans and 87 followers on Twitter
  • was quoted or referred to in at least 48 different articles in the print media
  • staff grew from two to three attorneys, hosted two paid and two volunteer interns and employed an office administrator
  • had its first AGM (preceded by a public information session), held four meetings of its board of directors and published its first Annual Report

In 2012, the CER plans to:

  • operate with a staff of at least four attorneys (applications for the latest staff attorney position closes on 9 January 2012), two paid legal interns (the second round of applications for internships closes on 9 January 2012) and an office administrator
  • move to bigger premises in Observatory (any suggestions would be most appreciated)
  • publish at least two reports on its work: one on the current state of access to environmental information, and one on civil society opportunities to get water governance back on track
  • expand its work on mining and environment, including working in partnership with Lawyers for Human Rights, and by building the Mining, Environment and Community Alliance and stepping up the fight against an outdated parallel system of environmental regulation of mines
  • expand its work on access to information through a combination of incentives for voluntary disclosure, and disincentives through further legal action to compel production of information
  • depending on funding, start new work on water governance, wildlife defence and increased protection of protected areas, in close collaboration with various partner organisations.

We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us during this year, including in particular those who contributed their free time through membership of our Board, expert panel and expert advice on our cases; our extraordinary clients who inspire us through their tireless work for their communities and the environment; and our all-important funders who have made our work possible.

The Centre will be closed from 19 December 2011, re-opening on 9 January 2012.