IUCN WCEL Oceans, Coasts, and Coral Reefs Specialist Group
A global network of legal experts to establish ocean stewardship through science, law, and policy.

What is the Oceans, Coasts, and Coral Reefs Specialist Group (OSG)?

Image Credit: Aaron M. Ellison

The WCEL Ocean Specialist Group’s mandate is to work toward a healthy ocean, recognizing the special needs of coastal areas, coral reefs, and the high seas. It is part of a pro bono publico commission of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), an intergovernmental conservation organization. Its members are legal experts from over 50 countries.

OSG priorities are: recovery and conservation of marine biodiversity; ocean ecosystem protection; and sustainable coastal and marine management. These are closely linked to the problem of climate change, the establishment of protected areas, the particular needs of Arctic and Antarctic polar governance; and improving the effectiveness of environmental laws.

Examples of the type of work that the OSG is engaged in include:

  • A current book project, Ocean Acidity Post-Paris: Gauging Law and Policy Responses (Edward Elgar, anticipated publication 2019).
  • Advising the IUCN delegation to the Preparatory Committee for a new treaty on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Expert submissions on behalf of IUCN in both of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea advisory opinion cases (on state responsibility and liability for sponsorship of deep seabed mining in the high seas, and on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing).

More information about the OSG can be found here.

What is the IUCN?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) seeks to provide public, private and non-governmental organizations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.  IUCN’s membership includes countries (89, including the United States), sub-national governments, indigenous peoples, and NGOs, totaling 1,300 member organizations. Its experts are organized into six commissions dedicated to species survival, environmental law, protected areas, social and economic policy, ecosystem management, and education and communication. For more, see the IUCN website.

The six Commissions of the IUCN unite 13,000 volunteer experts from a range of disciplines. They assess the state of the world’s natural resources and provide the Union with sound know-how and policy advice on conservation issues.

Find out more about the different IUCN Commissions here.

Who are WCEL members?

The World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) members are generally lawyers, but also include individuals from other disciplines with special expertise in law and governance. For more, see the WCEL Mandate 2017-2020.

What are the other themes of the IUCN? 

In addition to environmental law, the IUCN works across a wide range of themes related to conservation, environmental and ecological issues, including but not limited to climate change, marine and polar, science and economics.

A complete list and more information regarding each of the IUCN themes can be found here.

Want to stay informed about IUCN developments? Be sure to follow on Twitter both the IUCN WCEL as well as Dr. Cymie Payne, Chair of the Oceans, Coasts and Coral Reefs Specialist Group.