Greenwatch Concludes The Sixth Judicial Training on Climate Change in Mbale

By Greenwatch |
Greenwatch Concludes Sixth Judicial Training on Climate Change in Mbale

On May 20th, Ugandan judges gathered at Mbale Resort Hotel in Mbale District, Eastern Uganda for the sixth annual judicial training program on climate justice, organized by Greenwatch, an environmental rights non-governmental organization. Since 2019, Greenwatch has partnered with the Judicial Training Institute to educate judges on climate justice, addressing the urgent need for effective judicial action in the face of climate change. This year's theme, "Enforcing Environmental Laws in the Age of Climate Crisis," underscored the critical role of the judiciary.

Hon. Justice Godfrey Namundi, Head of the Mbale High Court Circuit, officiated the event and highlighted the pivotal role of the judiciary in combating climate change. He stressed the importance of judges making equitable decisions that protect human rights while addressing climate issues. Justice Namundi emphasized the need to hold polluters accountable and maintain a robust legal framework to tackle climate-related environmental challenges. He noted that heavy traffic jams in Kampala and on the Jinja-Kampala highway contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change. These traffic jams also affected the movement of some participants traveling to Mbale. Additionally, he spoke about the recent floods in Mbale due to heavy rains in the Mount Elgon region, emphasizing the urgent need to address climate impacts. Justice Shakira Bukirwa Ntambi, Resident Judge of the Jinja High Court Circuit, registrars, chief magistrates, and magistrates from climate-change-prone areas in Eastern Uganda were in attendance.

 

Hon. Justice Godfrey Namundi, officiating the event, highlighted the judiciary's crucial role in addressing climate change.
Hon. Justice Godfrey Namundi, officiating the event, highlighted the judiciary's crucial role in addressing climate change.

 

The judicial training aimed to equip participants from the Elgon and Eastern regions with the knowledge and tools to handle environmental cases amid a changing climate. Key areas of focus included the complexities of environmental law and climate change regulations. Judges explored strategies for enforcing environmental laws and overcoming the challenges posed by climate impacts. The program also featured case studies showcasing successful enforcement actions on climate-related issues. Among the facilitators were Dr. Peter Mutesasira, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Uganda Christian University (UCU), and Eunice M. Asinguza, Legal and Corporate Affairs Manager at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Samantha Atukunda Kakuru Mwesigwa, the Director of Greenwatch, expressed gratitude for the continuous support and partnership of the Judicial Training Institute. She emphasized that Greenwatch is tirelessly working to ensure that Ugandans enjoy their right to a clean and healthy environment. This effort includes equipping judges with the knowledge needed to properly handle climate and environmental-related issues.

 

Our 6th Judicial Training starts with opening remarks from our Director & Legal Counsel Atukunda Samantha Kakuru Mwesigwa.
Our 6th Judicial Training started with opening remarks from our Director & Legal Counsel Atukunda Samantha Kakuru Mwesigwa.

 

Greenwatch's dedication to judicial training emphasizes the critical role of the Ugandan judiciary in protecting the environment, especially during the climate crisis. By providing judges with specialized knowledge, Greenwatch aims to strengthen the enforcement of environmental laws, ensuring a more just future for all Ugandans.

The choice of Mbale as the training venue was intentional. Known for its natural beauty, Mbale has recently suffered from climate-induced natural disasters. This stark reminder of the climate crisis highlighted the urgency for a well-equipped judiciary to address these challenges. Uganda faces increasing threats from climate change, including more frequent extreme weather events, floods, and droughts. The training program was timely as the country grapples with these pressing issues, aiming to empower judges to take decisive action in safeguarding the environment.

The event concluded with evaluations and closing remarks by Hon. Justice Damalie N. Lwanga, Executive Director of the Judicial Training Institute. In her speech, Justice Lwanga expressed pride in participating in the training, noting that it enables judges to adjudicate climate-related justice. "We are not leaving the same way we came," she said. Justice Lwanga extended special thanks to Justice Namundi and Her Lordship Bukirwa Faridah for their participation and dedication throughout the day, acknowledging their commitment by staying the entire duration of the training.

Justice Lwanga thanked Greenwatch for its long-standing partnership with the Judicial Training Institute. She recalled first attending the workshop on climate justice in 2019 and expressed gratitude for Greenwatch’s sustained efforts. "Training on climate justice is timely and a matter of global concern. Every effort should be made to protect Ugandans," she emphasized. She shared personal experiences to highlight the real and urgent nature of climate change. She recounted how her cousin from Dubai missed a flight due to floods on April 16th, 2024. "Heavy rains caused floods in the United Arab Emirates, affecting mainly Dubai and Sharjah. According to the National Center for Meteorology, this was the country's heaviest rainfall recorded in 75 years." She also mentioned her own experience of having her flight from Vienna to Heathrow stopped due to climate-related issues, resulting in significant disorganization at Heathrow Airport and forcing her to stay there for several days. "Climate change is real, and yet Uganda contributes the least but suffers the most impacts," she emphasized.

 

 

Justice Lwanga urged the Ugandan government to strike a balance between national development and the welfare of its people. "The government should make decisions that favor Ugandans," she stated. She also thanked the resource persons for sharing their knowledge and for their willingness to participate in the training. As the training concluded, Justice Lwanga and Justice Namundi handed over certificates to the participants, acknowledging their commitment to enhancing their knowledge and skills in climate justice.

The training was moderated by HW Prossy Katushabe, the Registrar JTI, and HW Faisal Mulalira, Ag. Deputy Registrar JTI.