I returned to the United States on Saturday after spending a productive and enjoyable week in Jordan. The purpose of my trip was to assist in developing an environmental law curriculum for Jordanian law schools. At present only two environmental law courses are being taught in Jordan - an introductory environmental law course at Yarmouk University and an international environmental law course at Amman University -- and there are few course materials on the subject available in Arabic. In order to help jump start the teaching of environmental law, it has been decided that an environmental law problem will be the subject for the annual Jordanian National Law School Moot Court competition. The competition has become extremely popular among the Jordanian law schools and competition is fierce. On Monday afternoon I met with law professors from seven Jordanian law schools who responded positively to the idea of using an environmental topic for the 2010 competition after three consecutive years of using commercial law topics.
On Monday morning we attended the opening session of an Environmental Litigation Training Workshop that U.S. EPA was conducting for Jordanian judges. I spoke briefly with EPA Chief Administrative Law Judge Susan Biro, James McDonald, director of management for EPA’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, and Timothy Epp, counsel to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board. Adnan Zawahreh, director of the inspectorate for Jordan's Ministry of Environment showed a video of himself uncovering a secret pipe that had been concealed underneath another pipeline in order to hide pollution violations. After being caught red handed the company needed two more warnings before agreeing to come into compliance. Mr. Adnan explained the importance of using videos to document environmental violations.
On Tuesday morning December 8 I met with Yehya Khaled, Director General of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), and Chris Johnson, director of Wild Jordan, at the RSCN offices in Amman. Their groups are NGOs who have been given responsibility by the Jordanian government for managing the country's six protected areas. They discussed the difficulties of enforcing the country's relatively good laws governing protected areas and local resistance to land use planning regulations. Wild Jordan, which is a subsidiary of the RSCN, emphasizes the importance of melding environmental protection efforts with the economic needs of local communities, something they are doing by promoting eco-tourism. RSCN and Wild Jordan are starting their own school that will be used to train the Royal Rangers, the country's environmental police, and they plan to locate it in an abandoned quarry.
On Tuesday morning I also visited the University of Jordan where I met George Hazboun, the dean of the law school, and several other law professors. I then had lunch at the Hotel Intercontinental with Jordanian Justice Minister Ayman Oodeh, Minister of Environment Khaled Irani, Lawrence Mandel, Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy, and officials from U.S. AID. Comparing notes on environmental disputes in the U.S. and Jordan, I mentioned the Stop the Beach litigation that was just argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. It turns out that Jordan has a slightly different issue concerning the shrinking Dead Sea where structures initially built near the water are now located far away from the water’s edge.
On Wednesday I gave a lecture on environmental law at Yarmouk University in the town of Irbid, Jordan, near the Syrian border. The university has 32,000 students with more than 700 students in the law school. Law school dean Ayman Masadeh remembered me from his visit to the University of Maryland School of Law last spring. Yarmouk is the only school trying to teach introductory environmental law and the professor who is doing so, who is from Iraqi, discussed whether the U.S. military could be held liable for environmental damage in his home country.
On Wednesday night I had dinner with the group of judges who are on the board of the Arab Council for Judicial Legal Studies. These included the president of Lebanon's appellate court, a Supreme Court Justice from the Palestinian Territories, and judges from Morocco and Algeria. I learned that King Abdullah had fired the Jordanian prime minister and dissolved the cabinet so that both the Environment Minister and Justice Minister I had lunch with the day before were no longer in office, at least temporarily, until a new cabinet is formed.
On Thursday morning December 10 I gave a lecture on environmental law at Philadelphia University, a private university with 6,000 students located in the town of Ayn al Basha al Badida. Following the lecture there was a spirited question and answer session that included a question by a student who asked whether the U.S. military could be held liable for environmental damage in Iraq. I showed brief clips of some of the most recent environmental law films my students at Maryland had made and one of the professors indicated that he would be interested in having his students experiment with making environmental films. The Jordanian Ministry of the Environment is planning to host a film competition next year that will include a category for student films.
On Thursday afternoon I made a presentation on “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” to a small but select audience of lawyers at the King Hussein Club in downtown Amman. The group included Judge Abdullah, the Jordanian judge most interested in environmental law, and Adnan Zawahreh, director of the inspectorate for Jordan's Ministry of Environment. After my presentation we had a really wide ranging discussion of developments in environmental law in different parts of the world. The audience seemed particularly interested in my experience in China.
Photos of my trip to Jordan are available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci/100629.
Meanwhile the Copenhagen conference continues. For guest blog reports from some of my friends who are attending the conference, go to www.globalenvironmentallaw.com and click on “Huang Jing” and “Miller” at the top of the opening page.