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Facilitation of legal advice to UNFCCC developing country negotiators

Project Reference: ADGL-0004c

This project is now in its third year with CDKN (ADGL-0004, b, c – Years 1, 2, and 3 respectively).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations are considered to be amongst the most complex multilateral law and policy-making processes ever. Meetings are characterised by the use of technical jargon, reference to legal principles and procedural norms. The delegations of industrialised countries therefore include specialised experts, lawyers and support staff. Developing country negotiators can rarely rely on similar backing.

The Legal Response Initiative (LRI) network offers poor developing countries free access to high quality and strategically important legal services. It also allows lawyers to contribute their expertise for the common good and learn about legal issues in climate change. Without LRI, the legal community would struggle to engage with the target beneficiaries in a meaningful way.

LRI seeks to:

  1.  level the playing field by making its services (pro-bono legal advice and assistance) available to as many poor and climate vulnerable developing countries as possible for free
  2. ensure that these countries have a strong voice in the negotiation process and contribute meaningfully to a new climate deal
  3. build and strengthen networks of legal experts from the South.

The LRI aims to assist the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the international climate negotiations. It currently includes 48 countries: 33 in Africa, 14 in Asia and the Pacific and one in Latin America. Many of them rely on the work of the LDC Group to develop and coordinate their positions in the climate negotiations.


Established in 2009, the LRI works through a network of 150 expert legal advisers from private sector law firms, universities and barrister chambers in different jurisdictions. The network gives free hands-on assistance during meetings, drafts legal opinions, legal background papers and builds the capacity of lawyers and negotiators from developing countries.

Legal capacity building has been identified by many developing countries as a priority to achieving these aims. To build their domestic ‘legal muscle’, the LRI involves lawyers from developing countries in its work, organises legal training events and creates networks of experts from the South.


To date, the LRI has dealt with almost 250 legal queries, over 100 of which came from developing country delegations. Around 130 individuals involved in the climate negotiators attended specialised legal training sessions.

Key outcomes from the initial phase of this project were:

  • Increased understanding and awareness in LDC negotiators of key legal issues in the UNFCCC negotiations.
  • Increased ability and capacity of LDC negotiators to influence the negotiations by providing access to high quality legal advisory services and through capacity building on legal issues.

During year two, objectives of the extension were:

  • Rapid response advice provided in connection with UNFCCC negotiation sessions.
  • Developing knowledge management systems
  • Legal capacity building in developing country delegations.

During the third year, the LRI’s objectives are to:

  • Raise awareness of legal aspects of the negotiations. To do this, the LRI will be hosting an event taking a closer look at the key legal issues in the run up to the negotiation of the next climate deal in 2015.
  • Gradually grow its capacity to meet increasing demand in a sustainable and lasting manner. To do this, the LRI has established a subgroup looking at how to build and strengthen communities of lawyers in developing countries. It has also discussed options for strategically targeting law firms outside common law jurisdictions – in particular in South and Latin America in the lead up to the climate conference in Peru in 2014.

Latest update:

February 2014: Following on from the London workshops, some of the participants held further training workshops for colleagues in their home jurisdictions – Bangladesh and Kenya. Thus, the LRI has trained the trainers and laid the foundations for a gradually evolving network of legal experts from different jurisdictions and geographical regions in the climate negotiations.

April 2013: The LRI organised a legal training programme for lawyers on UNFCCC negotiation teams from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe in April 2013 in London. Over one week, legal experts on international environmental law, treaty law and the UNFCCC process provided tailor made, practical hands-on training. The teaching materials, presentations and exercises were compiled in a training manual and made available for free on the internet.

Briefing papers can be found here.

CDKN funding: £172,700
Project Manager: Nadia Schweimler

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