Vermont Law School to Support Environmental Reform in Myanmar
December 11, 2012
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt.—Vermont Law School (VLS) announced today that it has received a one-year grant from the blue moon fund to support environmental governance training and education in Myanmar as the nation prepares for considerable foreign investment.
Coming on the heels of a historic visit by President Barack Obama, the $300,000 grant recognizes that the next phases of political and economic reform in Myanmar represent an opportunity to protect large areas of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot from the looming threat of development. Accordingly, the initial emphasis of the project is to provide key government officials, legislators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and business leaders with a range of legal and policy tools that can be quickly adopted to provide broad scale protection of the country's key biodiversity areas.
The project is expected to begin in early 2013. It will focus on developing a comprehensive program that utilizes legal and policy tools to protect valuable natural resources. Preparing advice for members of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (the legislature of Myanmar) on integrating environmental considerations in foreign investment decisions is among the planned activities.
"This grant offers Vermont Law School a unique opportunity to expand its footprint into Southeast Asia," said Marc Mihaly, president and dean of VLS. "Our deep experience building capacity and developing environmental governance policies in China will allow us to make a constructive difference to this emerging and important nation."
Following a scoping mission earlier this year to Myanmar, members of the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law at VLS realized that their expertise and success in advancing the rule of law to protect China's environment could be applied to the fragile ecosystems of Myanmar. "We saw first-hand the need and opportunity for economic development, but also the impact it would have on Myanmar's environment," said Siu Tip Lam, Assistant Professor of Law and Program Director. "Our interest lies in assisting Myanmar's leaders to enact and enforce strong protections for Myanmar's valuable and abundant environmental resources in ways that enable the country's sustainable development."
In addition to assisting with the rapid adoption of strong environmental protections for Myanmar's natural resources, the project will help improve knowledge of, and skills in, environmental law among government officials, members of the judiciary, NGOs, business leaders and educators. The project will also aim to help create a broad environmental regulatory framework that will allow for both sound environmental management and the encouragement of sustainable investment opportunities.
Founded in 1973, VLS (www.vermontlaw.edu) became the top-ranked environmental law school in the United States by training its students to act as agents of change in pursuit of the VLS mission, "law for the community and the world." It currently has 56 full-time, 10 part-time and 75 adjunct faculty and some 735 students pursuing JD and other advanced degrees, including a Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) and an LLM in Environmental Law.
In 2006, with the support from the USAID, VLS launched the U.S.-China Partnership (www.vermontlaw.edu/china) to advance environmental governance and rule of law in China. In addition to receiving renewals of the USAID grant in 2009 and 2012, the U.S.-China Partnership is also currently administering two environmental advocacy programs in China funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Kunming.
Based in Charlottesville, VA, blue moon fund (www.bluemoonfund.org) was established in April 2002 by Diane Edgerton Miller and Patricia Jones Edgerton. Together they shared more than 70 years of experience in philanthropy and dedication to preserving the sustainable quality of life on our planet. blue moon fund emerged from the 2001 restructuring of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, which had been created in 1944 by Pat's father and Diane's grandfather, W. Alton Jones. Led by Diane, blue moon fund is continuing with a strategic, initiative-based philanthropy that helps improve the human relationship to the natural world. The blue moon fund is characterized by its holistic approach, its risk taking, its nimbleness, and its commitment to cutting-edge ideas in both programs and investments.
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