The ALL RISE team from the newly launched free climate and environmental justice law clinic in KZN. Picture: Casey Pratt/Love Africa.
The ALL RISE team from the newly launched free climate and environmental justice law clinic in KZN. Picture: Casey Pratt/Love Africa.

Free, all-female climate and environmental justice law clinic launched in KZN

By Karen Singh Time of article published Jun 9, 2021

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DURBAN - AN all-female legal team has launched a free climate and environmental justice clinic that aims to protect people’s right to a clean environment.

The non-profit organisation called ALL RISE was launched in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.

The organisation consists of pro bono attorneys in the province working exclusively in the environmental field according to the clinic.

It is one of a few in the country assisting communities and organisations that cannot afford legal services, to assert their constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.

Directors Kirsten Youens and Janice Tooley, who are both attorneys, said South Africa has one of the best Constitutions in the world with a Bill of Rights encompassing fundamental rights to life and equality; to food, water and housing; and to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being.

“The challenge lies in enforcing these rights. Rights on paper are not enough.

“Without lawyers acting pro bono and generous funders who can cover the high costs of litigation and client engagement, it is impossible to put these rights, so eloquently set out in the Constitution, into effect,” said the attorneys.

Over the last few years, the team have worked on fossil fuel, wildlife and marine space cases which have gained national and international attention.

The clinic said most of their effort has been directed towards a number of coal mines in Northern KZN which adversely impact rural communities, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the Mfolozi River Catchment in the St Lucia Estuary Ramsar Site.

Youens said witnessing the injustices in northern KZN was the turning point for the team.

“We realised the positive impact we could have on thousands of people who don’t have access to the information or legal support they need to advocate for their own rights. And that we could play the role of educator, rights defender and ally,” she said.

The ALL RISE team and its clients face ongoing challenges both in and outside of the courtroom. These include threats and acts of violence.

THE MERCURY

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