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200 words to protect the planet, defining a new international crime of Ecocide



It is widely recognised that humanity stands at a crossroads. The scientific evidence points to the conclusion that the emission of greenhouse gases and the destruction of ecosystems at current rates will have catastrophic consequences for our common environment. Along with political, diplomatic and economic initiatives, international law has a role to play in transforming our relationship with the natural world, shifting that relationship from one of harm to one of harmony.

Despite significant progress, the inadequacies of current global environmental governance are widely acknowledged. National and international laws are in place to contribute to the protection of the natural systems upon which our well-being depends, yet it is apparent that such laws are inadequate and more is needed.

It is against this background that in late 2020 the Stop Ecocide Foundation convened an Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide (‘Panel’). It comprises twelve lawyers from around the world, with a balance of backgrounds, and expertise in criminal, environmental and climate law. They have worked together for six months, charged with preparing a practical and effective definition of the crime of ‘ecocide’. The Panel was assisted by outside experts and a public consultation that brought together hundreds of ideas from legal, economic, political, youth, faith and indigenous perspectives from around the globe.

Between January and June 2021 the Panel convened for five remote sessions. Panel sub-groups were tasked with specific research and drafting tasks. A consensus on a core text of a definition of ecocide as an international crime was reached in June 2021.

It is the hope of the Panel that the proposed definition might serve as the basis of consideration for an amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Statute addresses crimes that are deemed to be of international interest and relevance, and the time has come to extend the protections for serious environmental harm, already recognised to be a matter of international concern.

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