Travel Notes: Central Africa, Working Exchange Visitors, A First for Thailand

Reaching out to Central Africa In October, E-LAW U.S. Staff Attorney Alex Hanafi traveled to Yaoundé, Cameroon, to co-host a workshop for grassroots advocates serving local communities in the region. He was joined by E-LAW U.S. Technology Circuit Rider Miguel Peirano and co-hosts from the Centre pour l`Environnement et le Developpement. "It was certainly inspirational," said Alex. "Everyone endured some hard travel, but Milton Taylor from Liberia managed to make it through Abidjan during a civil war!" Alex reports that the initial excitement of advocates meeting colleagues in the region for the first time only grew in three days of work sessions and computer training. "E-LAW opened my eyes to the wide world of public interest environmental law," wrote Tumai Murombo of Zimbabwe. And the collaboration and camaraderie continues to grow through a regional listserv and participation in the global E-LAW network. Advocates from Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Zimbabwe attended the Cameroon workshop thanks to support from the U.S. State Department`s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Support from the French American Charitable Trust made it possible for French human rights lawyer and former Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights, William Bourdon, to attend and share the French legal perspective with lawyers from Francophone Africa. Recent Working Exchange Visitors in Eugene

Nixon Sifuna
Nixon Sifuna, Kenya

In the past six months, E-LAW U.S. staff have traveled to work with grassroots advocates in Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, México, Costa Rica, Cambodia, and Thailand. Meanwhile, E-LAW U.S. has welcomed Working Exchange visitors from the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine, Nicaragua, India, Kenya, Cameroon, and Zambia. The following describes a few of our recent visitors. Last year, Nixon Sifuna filed a precedent-setting "forest excision" case in Kenya`s High Court at Eldoret. Two days after winning preliminary rulings, Nixon was arrested and imprisoned overnight, without cause. The judge who issued a preliminary injunction was transferred and the new judge reversed the injunction. Kenyan advocates are continuing to challenge the forest excision. Sofiya Vankovych and Nataliya Balushka are 2002 graduates of Lviv State University Faculty of Law. They are staff attorneys at Ecopravo Lviv, home of E-LAW Ukraine. Vera Mischenko is co-founder of Ecojuris, Russia`s first public interest law organization, and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize (2000). Vera brought the first successful lawsuits against the Russian government in defense of citizens` environmental and health rights. E-LAW has supported Vera`s work since 1993 to protect native forests, halt ill-conceived development projects, and challenge multinational oil companies.

Robinson Djeukam and Peter Sinkamba
Robinson Djeukam, CED, Cameroon (left) and Peter Sinkamba, CBE, Zambia

Robinson Djeukam is a staff attorney at the Centre pour l`Environnement et le Developpement (CED) in Yaoundé, Cameroon. CED builds the capacity of community leaders and NGOs working to protect the rainforests of Southern Cameroon. Peter Sinkamba is the Executive Director of Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) in Kitwe, Zambia. E-LAW U.S. Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason traveled to Zambia to work with Peter earlier this year. CBE is helping communities in Zambia`s mining belt fight for a cleaner environment. Pavel Cerny is a staff attorney at Ekologicky Pravni Servis in the Czech Republic. He participated in a three month Fellowship at E-LAW U.S. He is working to strengthen access to justice and public participation provisions in the Czech Republic`s civil code. S. Devika is an environmental lawyer from Chennai, India. Her legal expertise is in the areas of transportation, women`s rights, civil litigation and environmental litigation. She has contributed to a compendium on the environmental laws of India and is a board member of the People`s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a national human rights organization. Devika is an actress and tours all over India with a local theater company. A First for Thailand In May, E-LAW U.S. Staff Attorney Alex Hanafi met with representatives of EnLaw, a new organization and the first independent environmental law organization in Thailand. E-LAW U.S. Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik is now working with EnLaw advocates to get the information they need to protect the health of citizens exposed to severe radiation from improperly discarded radioactive medical devices. This case has been covered extensively in the Bangkok Post. Thanks to support from The Asia Foundation, EnLaw Staff Attorney Surachai Trong-ngam attended the 2002 E-LAW Annual International Meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico. At that meeting, Surachai reported on the work EnLaw is doing to support the victims of radiation poisoning and gathered information from colleagues around the world to help him with his case.

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Reaching out to Central Africa; Recent working exchange visitors in Eugene; A First for Thailand.