EPL Commemorates the Centenary of Dr. Wolfgang Burhenne


We celebrate the life of the founding editor of Environmental Policy and Law and world-renowned environmental lawyer, who was born on April 27, 1924. 

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Wolfgang E. Burhenne (WEB). He died at the age of 92, on January 6, 2017 (see tribute). To honor his legacy, IOS Press and EPL pay tribute to his memory. 

Current Editor-in-Chief of EPL, Bharat H. Desai (BHD), PhD, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for International Legal Studies, says, "Dr. Burhenne was a truly inspiring figure, unmatched in his commitment to environmental protection and humanitarian causes. His legacy lives on in the EPL community."

WEB in his office (@IUCN Environmental Law Centre Bonn) receiving a copy of Bharat H. Desai’s 2010 book: Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Legal Status of the Secretariats. New York: Cambridge University Press, 20 November 2010. 

Dr. Burhenne led a remarkably dedicated his life to advocating for social and environmental issues globally. He was widely recognized worldwide, together with his wife Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin, as being instrumental in the realization of several crucial multinational environmental agreements (MEAs), such as the World Charter for Nature and the Africa Convention on the Conservation of Nature. Together, they were awarded the UN International Environmental Prize (UNEP Sasakawa Prize) in 1991, and Dr. Burhenne received numerous other accolades for his contributions to environmental conservation. He dedicated his life to establishing what is now recognized worldwide as sustainable development. 

Dr. Francoise Burhenne-Guilmin in her office at IUCN Environmental Law Center Boon, 20 November 2010.

Dr. Burhenne had been a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since its establishment in 1948 and founded IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre in 1956. During the 10th IUCN Assembly in 1969 in New Delhi, Dr. Burhenne and other delegates established the International Council of Environmental Law to advance the efforts of the IUCN's Environmental Law Program. A part of these efforts was the establishment of the EPL.

For his parliamentary work in Germany earned WEB the Knight Commander’s Cross (badge and star) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Last meeting of WEB with BHD in the lobby of Hotel Maritim Bonn, 26 July 2016.

As Founding Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Policy and Law: The journal for decision-makers in the early 1970s, Dr. Burhenne's goal was to share environmental legal and policy reports as widely as possible, striving to accelerate the protection of the environment and human rights. He was committed to expanding the journal's readership to key legal professionals and government officials. The seeds sown by WEB and the nurturing of the EPL he did in his way, as per requirements of the time, has provided a basis for the journal to usher into the new era. In his first editorial, Environmental Policy and Law, 1 (1975), WEB wrote the following: “we do not seek to create a scholarly journal, where experts speak to experts over their common expertise. Our central purpose is to report and analyze developments which should be of international interest - to inform those active in the environmental field…In short, we hope that ICEL 's new journal will serve as a means of communication among decisionmakers around the world”.  

In the pre-internet era, the abovementioned assertion of WEB at the launch of the EPL was the need of the hour. Now at a time when the earth is facing a planetary crisis (“Our Earth Matters”, Environmental Policy and Law 50 (2020) 445–446, the EPL needed to change the gears (see aims and scope) to be in a vanguard position to make scholarly sense as well as contribute to the international environmental law-making and institution-building processes. Therefore, the EPL as a global journal seeks to publish cutting-edge scholarly works that have global significance. It provides a platform to facilitate an ideational understanding of international environmental policy, law, and institutional issues. As a corollary, the EPL aims to cater to the quest of the scholars and the decision-makers to address the environmental "world problematique." It will, where possible, also aims to accommodate high-quality research works on regional and national (policy, law, and institutional) issues of significance that have global value as well as replicable in other parts of the world. EPL’s ideational vision and the content will be guided by this primary remit to pursue a pathway for a better common environmental future. In the new era, the EPL still stands to play a resolute role through publication of cutting-edge scholarly ideas and solutions for the decision-makers to vindicate what WEB envisaged more than half a century ago. 

Photo on top by Federico Fioravanti on Unsplash.