The emergence and development of International Law is perhaps the crowning achievement of the modern era. And yet there remain many intractable problems that threaten our environment, our human rights and our global economy. Despite the many remarkable achievements in international public law, much remains to be done. In Mongolia we witness the tragic erosion of human security in the form of environmental degradation, negligence in upholding basic human rights and criminal financial practices emanating from forces of greed that act with relative impunity. We believe that International Law remains the preferred method of addressing clear violations and that the institutions of international law need to be developed sufficiently so as to acquire the capacity to deter ongoing and future abuses.
Perhaps the the greatest obstacle to the development of international law is the lack of public awareness. Many people regard international law as something abstract, remote, theoretical and ungrounded in general practice. This perception undermines the potential of international public law. A world without law can descend into chaos–either as a result of massive social upheaval or through the unbridled practices of corporate greed or a combination of both. The international legal movement is powerless without the support and engagement of the people. And once the people understand that they themselves are the custodians, beneficiaries and agents of international law, the barriers to a sustainable future will be defeated.
How do we build universal cooperation with the concepts inherent in peremptory customary law? We build institutions of law that engage on the local level. We tap into the highest aspirations and values that animate human activity. We engage on the level of belief and tradition. We reach deep into common sources of wisdom and knowledge. Our program for the seminar upcoming in October represents a bold step in this direction.
Partnering with the International Centre of the Roerichs, the Roerich Society of Mongolia, and the National Legal Institute of Mongolia, we will present a program that combines a cultural appraisal of indigenous environmentalism (specifically the forms of nomadic environmentalism indigenous to Mongolia) with an overview of current trends in mainstream environmental law. Certainly, we are seeing a convergence of environmental legal concepts with concepts long held and honored by indigenous population and which are verified by modern science. We consider this convergence highly propitious.
Beginning in the 1970s, indigenous populations have coalesced into a unified global voice. This voice of harmony, reconciliation and respect for Mother Earth and Father Sky is increasingly echoed in the critiques and expressed longings of the non-indigenous majority. This is both a sensible and a visionary development. While many in the dominant culture are perhaps uncomfortable with religious content or spiritual sources in law, most thinking persons are eager to acknowledge the life-affirming contribution of our indigenous siblings to the urgent discourse surrounding issues of environmental law. We sense intuitively that the indigenous represent ourselves and our most fundamental human interests and that it is highly prudent to study and incorporate the indigenous perspective in matters of existential imperative. To acknowledge the indigenous voice is to close the circle of the human family and to begin in earnest a reformative process that may, ultimately, ensure that the human being will not prove to be its own worst enemy.
Overseeing the conceptual elaboration of this synthesis of law and culture will be Dr. Shagdarjen Bira who is the president of the Mongolian Roerich Society, Academician of the Mongolian Scientific Academy and the preeminent keeper of the flame of Mongolian spiritual scholarship; and Prof. Dinah Shelton, whose service to the movement of environmental and human rights law evidences both personal valor and profound intellectual contribution.
While we intend and expect the seeds of this seminar to sprout and proliferate in the hearts of all people globally, we are mindful that local actions and achievements are urgently needed. The perils facing Mongolian nomadism are overmatching the current capacity to fight the good fight. Rivers are being destroyed, birth defects are on the increase and much of the wealth of the nation is being expatriated. Our seminar will address the need for immediate direct action. We expect participation from environmental watchdog organizations and expect to consolidate a broadened legal response to the crises facing Mongolia. In many ways, Mongolia is a microcosm of the world. We as a planet are facing the same situation. Our ability to develop the rule of law on a local level will give us the experience to take the fight to the global level. Mere abstract concepts are largely useless. To the extent that we are able to develop the rule of law in Mongolia, we will prove that the time for universal human security has come. We believe that the powerful concepts of indigenous environmentalism will ignite the imagination and will of the planet. Once all people feel that the Law is “Their Law”, we will produce the change and the direction that is so desperately needed.
Mongolia is, in many ways, at the center of the world: between East and West, a democratic indigenous nation with a proud history of law and civilization, in the cross-hairs of the emerging resource boom in Central Asia (which many regard as the most important region in the world economically), its independent spirit never dimmed by the proximity of powerful neighbors. Mongolia stands to inherit the the position of capital of international law from the Hague. This shift is, in my view, unavoidable. And this is a shift that is full of promise for all people everywhere. Our seminar will be a celebration of the emergence of a “true world order” based on the rule of law and on evolutionary principles.