South Africa: Mass Movements Must Drive a New Legal Framework to Alleviate the Climate Crisis


In September, lawyers and social movement activists met in Bellagio, Italy, to discuss how the power of law can be combined with the power of people to secure human rights and planetary safety. One of the many conversations that took place was between Farhana Yamin, veteran climate change lawyer and activist, and Mark Heywood, social justice activist and editor of Maverick Citizen. Their conversation was facilitated by feminist AIDS activist Robin Gorna.

RG: Can you both tell us a little about the work you have been doing in social justice from a legal perspective?

FY: In 1991 when the environmental law, especially at international and European level, was in its infancy, international treaties were being created in the run-up to 1992 Earth Summit. I was lucky enough to qualify in this era of law-making and as a progressive lawyer at the time, I was thrilled to join an area where I could contribute to that law-making and help advise small island states in the climate change negotiations.

MH: Well, I'm not a trained lawyer. I'd describe myself as a legal practitioner and a legal activist.

My life in law begins slightly later than Farhana's. It starts in 1994 in South...

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