Meeting of the (International Environmental) Minds at CLF’s Boston Office

Samantha Caravello

Yesterday, an exciting and inspiring delegation of emerging leaders from the international environmental community paid a visit to CLF’s Boston office. The delegation was sponsored by the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional exchange program that seeks to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through short-term visits such as this one. The group was in the U.S. to learn how environmental law is implemented and enforced here, and they chose CLF specifically as the group to advise them. WorldBoston, a local nonprofit organization, organized the Boston portion of the delegation’s visit to the U.S.

The fifteen delegation participants came from the world over – Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Serbia, Thailand, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam and the West Bank. While all do work related to the environment, the list of their careers was as diverse as the list of their nationalities! Scientists, professors, elected officials, government employees, NGO officers and other professions gathered around the conference table to hear CLF attorneys speak about their work advocating for environmental policies and taking violators of those policies to court.

Massachusetts Advocacy Center director Peter Shelley kicked off the meeting, welcoming the guests and providing them with an introduction to CLF’s mission, program areas, and organizational structure. He then transitioned into a discussion of CLF’s legal work, explaining that in the U.S., we have important legal tools available that allow organizations such as CLF to bring lawsuits against polluters and even the government, and that allow them to recoup the costs of their legal fees if they win. Attorneys Shanna Cleveland, Seth Kaplan, and Cynthia Liebman also discussed their work at CLF and their experiences with the U.S. legal system. Delegates expressed keen interest in the strategies discussed and shared thoughts on the contrasts between the legal system in the U.S. and in their own nations. Everyone expressed agreement that government is not always as transparent as it claims to be (although another benefit of the U.S. legal system that was discussed is our tremendous access to data through environmental review procedures and Freedom of Information Act requests).

The event was a great success, and the morning flew by amid the discussion. CLF was honored to host such a motivated and interesting group of people, and we hope that the delegation enjoyed learning from us as much as we enjoyed learning from them.

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