Protected areas and international laws

Protected Areas Head

“States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply.”

Principle 11, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, United Nations Earth Summit, 1992.


Professor Al Gillespie is probably one of the few law professors who travels on a diplomatic passport. His speciality is conservation and he works on international panels to protect endangered animals and some of the most spectacular and threatened parts of the planet. He says environmental law is going round in circles. Each government comes to a problem and thinks they can solve it, but according to Professor Gillespie, its's all been seen before.

Professor Gillespie wrote Whaling Diplomacy: Defining Issues in International Environmental Law to give people a background in the subject - the science, politics and philosophy.

As a result, people are taking notice. His work was quoted by a senator in the Australian parliament and when the American government agreed to put $10 billion towards Everglade protection to remove it from the danger list, Professor Gillespie was quoted again.

In 2007, when New Zealand hosted and chaired the World Heritage Convention held in Christchurch, with 700 delegates representing 21 countries, Professor Gillespie was rapporteur. He successfully advocated a fundamental change in the way the international community practises conservation, namely that communities, not just governments, must be at the heart of all initiatives.

His most recent book, Protected Areas and International Law, is related to his work with the World Heritage Convention.

External funding gratefully acknowledged: New Zealand Law Foundation grant.


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