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Svitlana Kravchenko (1949-2012)

With profound sadness, the IUCN Academy regrets to announce the untimely great loss of Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, Director of the LL.M. Program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law at the University of Oregon, U.S.A. Svitlana suffered a heart attack and passed away on Friday, February 10, in Eugene, Oregon. She is survived by her loving husband, Professor John Bonine, also a law professor at the University of Oregon; her dear daughter, Maria Kostytska (a lawyer in Paris, France) and her dear niece, Lena Kravchenko (Executive Director of Environment-People-Law in Lviv, Ukraine).


Svitlana was born in Potsdam, Germany and grew up in both the Russian Far East and Western Ukraine. Her father was a distinguished Soviet General in Ukraine, who became a well-known military judge. Her mother was a distinguished criminal judge who became a Justice of the Supreme Criminal Court of Ukraine during the time of the Soviet Union. Svitlana graduated from the Law Faculty of Lviv State University in 1972 and began her teaching career at her alma mater. She defended her first PhD dissertation at the Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1977 which focused on the problem of civil liability for environmental transgressions; and defended her 2nd and higher-level dissertation in 1991 on the problems associated with environmental law enforcement in Kharkiv. Prior to teaching at the University of Oregon Law School, Svitlana taught environmental law at Lviv National University in Ukraine for 25 years.

In 1994, Svitlana met her future husband John at an environmental conference in Ukraine and they were married seven years later. Svitlana and John were a dynamic duo who worked together tirelessly on environmental work. They were both strong supporters of the work of the IUCN Academy and were instrumental in helping the Academy in its formative years. Svitlana dedicated much of her work to environmental democracy, notably her work in the late 1990s as a "Citizen Diplomat" in negotiating and later promoting the Aarhus Convention and then was instrumental in its early ratification in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by many of those countries. She was also elected by governments one of the original members of the Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee (a quasi-adjudicative international body) and served as Vice-Chair for the Committee since 2002 until her passing. She was in every sense a fine advocate, great environmentalist and sophisticated negotiator.

Svitlana was a member of the Green Party of Ukraine. She was the founder of Ecopravo-Lviv (now Environment-People-Law), a public interest law firm that focuses on raising a new generation of environmental lawyers. It was the first public interest law firm in the Ukraine. Svitlana was the Co-Director of the Association of Environmental Law of Central and Eastern Europe; an elected Regional Governor of the International Council of Environmental Law; and also worked in conjunction with the American Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI) Program and was President of the Ukraine branch of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide. She also served on the Membership Committee of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

In addition, Svitlana served as a Vice-Chair of the IUCN Commission of Environmental Law and an Advisor for the Ministry of Environment and the Parliament of Ukraine.

In her lifetime, Svitlana wrote more than 190 scholarly articles and book chapters as well as 12 books, among them 6 books were on the topic of legal frameworks for environmental protection. She also took part in a number of international conferences and traveled or lectured in 70 countries.

Last year, Svitlana was honoured at the IUCN Academy’s 9th Colloquium held in Eastern Cape, South Africa as the recipient of the IUCN Academy’s Senior Scholarship Prize. The criteria for the award included the originality, intellectual influence and international significance of Svitlana’s publications in environmental law. Although Svitlana and John were not present at this colloquium, Svitlana accepted the award by way of a moving email written by her only about an hour before the award ceremony took place in South Africa, after she was notified of the award by phone in her home in Oregon. In her acceptance, she said, “We face a world that contains great beauty and is populated by humans capable of great acts of generosity.” She urged scholars to help move society “toward beauty and generosity.”


It is most fitting to end our tribute to our beloved Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, an icon and true champion of nature and humanity, with a quote from Professor Nick Robinson of Pace Law School, USA.

We must celebrate her legacy as an inspiration for younger lawyers, to walk further on the pathways she strengthened, and especially do so in Ukraine and the countries where Aarhus is a beacon. After our tears, after our hugs and sympathy for John and Maria, and in the fullness of time may we memorialize her life’s work as she would have wished, by continuing her work in myriad and effective channels, flowing like the energy in ecological systems, for all of the Earth’s beings.

We all salute you, Svitlana.