The Development Law Service provides technical assistance to member countries for the preparation of laws and regulations on the conservation, management and sustainable use of the natural environment.
In this context, the natural environment is broadly understood to mean all renewable natural resources, namely soil, water, forests, wildlife, fisheries, and genetic resources, as well as their respective ecosystems and habitats. In this area, technical assistance includes the legal aspects of preventing and controlling environmental degradation and pollution, such as soil erosion, pollution resulting from agricultural activities, desertification control, marine pollution, etc. It also entails the legal dimensions of biological diversity conservation, and of protected area and coastal zone management and development.
From a formal point of view, the assistance provided by the Service in this field may result in the formulation of either global laws dealing with the environment as a whole, or sectoral laws dealing with a natural resource in particular. While the latter are more frequent than the former, in both cases environmental conservation and sustainable development concerns, principles and functions are consistently taken into account, in a balanced and integrated manner. Global laws may take the form of either a codification of all or most of the legal provisions relating to the environment, or a framework legal instrument laying down the basic principles and rules for environmental protection and development, which are further implemented through subsidiary legislation.
In practice, -global laws and sectoral laws- are sometimes developed as part of a single, gradual law-making process. For instance, after the adoption of the Guinean Environmental Act in 1987, sectoral laws and regulations on forests, wildlife, water and soil were progressively formulated under it, with assistance from the Service for the preparation of each set of implementing norms. During this law-making process, it is essential to ensure that all environment-related legislation and regulations, be they global or sectoral in scope, are conceived in a coordinated and consolidated way, so that the complex inter-relations between the various elements -human and natural alike- of the environment can be fully taken into consideration.
More generally and as a matter of principle, environmental and sustainability concerns are systematically emphasized in the Service's legal advice, in order to provide appropriate legislative and regulatory tools for the management and conservation of natural resources on a sustainable basis. In this respect, the relevant international instruments dealing with the natural environment are given due attention, in particular those which were adopted at UNCED in 1992, like the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.