Nairobi — The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today paid tribute to Dr. Francoise Burhenne-Guilmin, a tireless advocate of the conservation of the environment, who has passed away after a long illness.
Francoise had worked as Senior Counsel of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Environmental Law Centre(ELC) in Bonn since 1999, following on from decades of legal work in environmental conservation.
"Much has been and will be said about Francoise, both as a person and a pioneering professional in the field of environmental law," said UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "For Francoise, the development and evolution of environmental law seemed as much of a calling as an exercise in intellectual rigour."
"Countless individuals benefited from her guidance and mentoring over the years, giving rise to literally generations of environmental law professionals now working across the globe," he added. "It is in the many minds and hearts that she touched with her generous nature and personality that a part of her legacy lives on."
"May she rest in peace as we honour her by continuing to build on what she left for us," Mr. Steiner said.
After graduation as a Doctor in Law at the University of Brussels in 1966, Françoise was appointed Secretary to the IUCN Commission on Legislation. From 1970 to 1972 she worked as Legal Officer and in 1973 became Head of the ELC, the position she held until 1999. From that time onwards she worked as Senior Counsel to the three consecutive directors of the ELC.
Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS); the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.
Her lifelong contribution to environmental law was acknowledged through many recognitions, distinctions and awards such as the Better World Society Medal for Protection of the Global Environment (1989), UNEP's Sasakawa Prize along with her husband Dr. Wolfgang Burhenne (1991), and the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law (2008).