2013 Environmental Law Education Awards

Professor Nicholas A Robinson

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law is pleased to recognize a number of internationally-renowned leaders in the field of environmental law as Fellows of the IUCN Academy.

It is with great pleasure, that the IUCN Academy gives its inaugural Education Award (senior category) to Professor Nicholas A. Robinson of Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, USA. Professor Robinson in an outstanding candidate selected from an outstanding group of nominees. This position was awarded to Professor Robinson in recognition of his significant contributions to scholarship in the field of environmental law and also for his service to the University. Professor Robinson is one of the most well-known and well-regarded environmental law academics in the world and he has also nurtured generations of environmental lawyers. His students are widely published, and well populate courtrooms, boardrooms, classrooms, and state houses. One reviewer noted that:

[Professor Robinson] never forgets his students at Pace. Nick is available to encourage their academic pursuits and to assist in focusing and shaping their research. He is a wonderful mentor, and spends hours counseling students and helping them pursue their scholarship, and employment opportunities.

Professor Nicholas Robinson and Professor Sophie Riley, Co-Chair of the Teaching and Capacity Building Committee

Indeed, in perusing Professor Robinson’s nomination the most difficult task was to identify which of his achievements were the most significant, from an ocean, rather than a pool, of talent and successes. His publication list, for example, which includes many materials that are essential to the learning and teaching of environmental law, is encyclopaedic in length and breadth.

Difficult as this task was, the following attainments stand out:

  • Professor Robinson is a founder (and former director) of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, which was one of the first of its kind, and is now widely considered to be one of the most effective clinical law programs in the U.S., if not the world.
  • Professor Robinson was a Co-editor, (with Parvez Hassan and Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin) of the classic reference work, Agenda 21 & the UNCED Proceedings, Oceania Publications, in 6 volumes.
  • Professor Robinson is also a former Chair and founder of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law (IUCNAEL), which is the first international learned society in the field of environmental law.

It is not only an understatement to say that he is a juggernaut in the field of environmental law, but it is also difficult to imagine environmental law education over the last 30-40 years without Professor Robinson. The Academy congratulates Professor Robinson on this well-deserved award.

Professor Anél du Plessis

It is with pleasure that the Academy awards the inaugural Education Award (junior category) to Professor Anél du Plessis, who is a Professor of law at North-West University. Anél is an early career academic, yet has amassed considerable expertise as a teacher of environmental law and always performs to high standards. The fact that she has achieved a rapid promotion through the academic ranks not only reflects her record of excellent scholarship, but also the quality and impact of her teaching.

Left: Professor Anél du Plessis and right: Professor Sophie Riley

Anél has taught a wide range of subjects, which demonstrate the versatility of her teaching abilities. At an undergraduate level these subjects include Local Government and Development Law, Legal Skills and Legal Pluralism. At the postgraduate level, Anel has taught Local Government and Environmental Law, Climate Change Law, Environmental Law, and Research Methodology. Anél is also a sought-after and skillful supervisor, currently supervising eight research students.

Anél is held in high esteem by her university and also by her students. Among the many accolades she has received, Anél won the Teaching Excellence Award (category B) in 2006 as a result of a year-long peer-assessment conducted by her university’s Academic Support Services Division. In 2010, she won her university’s Institutional Teaching Excellence Award (Category A) and in 2010 she was voted the Naspers Award (1st place) for Most Inspiring Lecturers in the Faculty of Law; in 2012 she won the same Award (2nd place).

In addition to a voluminous portfolio of publications on environmental law, Anel has also been able to write and publish other materials that have been used as teaching resources in South African law courses. These publications include:

  • “Sources of Law and Legal Authority” in Kotzé L.J., Lynn-Field T and du Plessis A.A. (eds.) Introduction to Law and Legal Skills in South Africa (Oxford University Press, 2012) 121-148 (co-authored with Kotzé L.J.).
  • “Classification of South African Law” in Kotzé L.J., Lynn-Field T and du Plessis AA (eds.) Introduction to Law and Legal Skills in South Africa (Oxford University Press, 2012) 149-167 (co-authored with Kotzé L.J.).

Beyond her own university, Anél has made distinctive contributions to environmental law education as a member of the Academic Partnership for Environment and Development Innovations in Africa (APEDIA) Curriculum Committee, in which she has been contributing to the design of a shared post-graduate module on the legal and policy dynamics of sustainable land-use for partner universities of the APEDIA: Namibia, Ethiopia, India, Uganda and South Africa.

Anél is that rare combination of exceptional teacher and brilliant researcher - a combination that has made her the perfect choice for this award. The Academy congratulates Anél and wishes her well in her future endeavours.

Furthermore, the Academy wishes to thank the Teaching and Capacity Building Committee, nominators for nominating the candidates, reviewers for taking time to review the academic work of the nominees in their teaching of environmental law and members of the Education Awards Selection Committee for their participation in and hard work on this year’s inaugural Education Awards.