By Holly Jonas, August 2016
The academic year often begins with a heady mix of trepidation and excitement. At the National University of Singapore (NUS), students eased into their demanding schedules with a week of orientation events in early August. As part of these events, NUS and the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law hosted a seminar by Holly Jonas (Legal Innovation Programme Coordinator, Forever Sabah) entitled, “Beyond the Courtroom: Pushing the Boundaries of Environmental Law in Malaysian Borneo”. The packed room included NUS students from undergraduate and graduate programmes in law, environmental studies and science, NUS faculty, students from other Singaporean universities, and staff of Singaporean government agencies, business associations and NGOs.
During the seminar, Holly highlighted how the law has contributed to economic growth but also ecological crises, and underscored Forever Sabah’s approach to the law as a ‘legal ecosystem’ and as a catalyst for broader change. She described three major initiatives in which Forever Sabah is using the law to help shift the trajectories of the oil palm, forestry and shark finning industries in collaboration with NGOs, indigenous peoples, government agencies, and the private sector.
An interactive photo-based discussion on the roles of lawyers identified the limitations of ‘traditional’ roles and the potential of alternative roles for supporting environmental and social issues. The seminar concluded with a discussion about how the participants – and particularly students – can get involved, including through hands-on engagement with Forever Sabah, making personal connections with the issues discussed (for example, through action on haze pollution in Singapore), and thinking and acting outside of the typical constraints of the legal profession.
The NUS Law Faculty is regularly ranked the top law school in Asia and among the top 15-20 globally. Forever Sabah is pleased to be working with NUS to develop internship and pro bono opportunities for law students. For more information, please contact Holly Jonas (holly (at) foreversabah.org).