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Written on 28 May 2020

The Weeramantry International Justice Award

Congratulations to Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Laureate of the prestigious new Weeramantry International Justice Award. 

With the current global health pandemic and the pressing challenges of today, the leadership and mentorship given by the laureates offers hope and inspiration for the next generation of lawyers, jurists and advocates.

In these troubled times of global pandemic, an occasional ray of hope, honour and distinction is even more valued, illuminating our world through the storm clouds. During the 2020 Global Symposium on Human Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Law on 15 May 2020, the first Laureates of the prestigious International Justice Award in honour of His Excellency Judge CG Weeramantry were announced. This eminent new international award for law and sustainable development was won by Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger of the United Kingdom, Canada and Switzerland, alongside Adv. Neshan Gunasekera of Sri Lanka and the Honourable Justice Professor Marcel Szabo of Hungary.  They are commended for their vision, character and accomplishments.

The Weeramantry International Justice Award is granted to distinguished senior-level jurists whose lifeworks, intellect and character offer the highest possible credit to the memory of His Excellency the late Judge Christopher Gregory Weeramantry, recipient of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education and former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice. Laureates are selected from a global roster of nominees in honour of his Excellency’s international legacy, including his concern for the interests of current and future generations, his commitment to international law, peace and sustainable development, and his global humanism and leadership in the law. 

Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger receives the 2020 International Justice Award for her outstanding legal scholarship and teaching, and for her leadership of international foundations, councils and networks including the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), the Climate Law and Governance Initiative with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Biodiversity Law and Governance Initiative with the Convention on Biological Diversity and UN-Environment.

The award recognises Prof. Cordonier Segger, who is full Professor of Law in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, and also Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy and the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law in the University of Cambridge, UK, as a founding pioneer in international law on sustainable development, author/editor of over twenty books and one hundred studies, and laureate of the respectedJustitia Fundamentum Regnorum Award, for her efforts to advance justice, human rights, protection of nature and the interests of future generations. 

As laureates of the 2020 Weeramantry International Justice Award, the honorees also become commissioners and mentors for the newly announced HE Judge CG and Rosemary Weeramantry Global Fellowship. The Weeramantry Global Fellowship aims to be the most prestigious and influential in its field, worldwide, and shall be open to graduate students and recently graduated scholars studying international law and governance related to sustainable development, and also to early-career professionals who demonstrate outstanding research and analytical ability.

Professor Romesh Weeramantry, upon announcing the first recipients of the Weeramantry International Justice Award, declared:

On behalf of my family, I am thrilled to congratulate these honorees and look forward to seeing their continued work in the years to come. It shall be a pleasure to serve with the new HE Justice CG Weeramantry International Justice Award Laureates on the commission which will select and designate the recipient of the HE Judge CG and Rosemary Weeramantry Global Fellowship, in order to honour their legacy.

Professor François Crépeau, Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, McGill University Faculty of Law, who chaired the biennial global symposium, remarked:

The HE Justice CG Weeramantry International Justice Awards are a wonderful way to celebrate the legacy of one of the great international judges of the post-war era and to recognise contemporary jurists whose impact on the world demonstrate Justice Weeramantry’s belief that law has a major role to play for making this planet a better place for the many”. The chair of the plenary, Professor Susan Breau, Law Faculty Dean at the University of Victoria, where the awards were announced, further declared: “I cannot tell you how delighted I am to congratulate you on behalf of us all. I cannot imagine more deserving winners of this first award... In my twenty-years of being an international lawyer, Judge Weeremantry inspired me over and over again with his elegant judgements and the three of you will carry on his work and make us all extremely proud. 

Response from the laureate, who deeply respected and honoured the works of His Excellency Justice Weeramantry, was both delighted and awed. Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier-Segger stated:

It is a great honour to share this international award with his Honour Judge Szabo and Advocate Gunasekera. We are very deeply committed to the mentorship and inspiration that, as Weeramantry International Justice Award laureates, we can give back to the global community which His Excellency Justice CG Weeramantry gave us. 

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, declares:

Since being awarded the Leverhulme, Professor Cordonier Segger has been actively engaging, lecturing and inspiring our researchers, students and colleagues with the Bennett Institute, the Lauterpacht Centre and other partners across the University of Cambridge. In these difficult times, she has also created new educational series on sustainability for secondary and primary students left stranded by the lockdown. It is a pleasure to learn of this distinction and we congratulate her for being named a laureate of the Weeramantry International Justice Award.

Dr Ashfaq Khalfan, Chair of the Board of Governors for the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) in which she has served mainly pro bono for nearly two decades, adds: “We are deeply delighted to see this prestigious award granted to our friend and senior director, especially in honour of a kind and courageous gentleman jurist whose legacy we deeply admire and respect.” 

Professor Dame Madeleine Atkins, President of Lucy Cavendish College, declared:

Professor Cordonier Segger is an active and distinguished member of our collegial community, serving as Director of Studies for our LLM and MCL students, and pursuing cutting-edge research on how law and policy reform - including post-pandemic measures - could foster action to address climate change and advance the world’s Sustainable Development Goals. We are delighted to congratulate her for this brilliant international distinction, one of the most significant in her field, and an entirely apposite testament to her inspirational work.”

Professor Cordonier Segger earned her doctorate (DPhil) in International Law from the University of Oxford; a Masters of Environmental Management (MEM) with full honours from Yale University; and both a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) and Bachelor of Common Law (LLB) from McGill University with distinction, after completing her undergraduate studies with honours at the University of Victoria and Carleton University in Canada.  She serves as Senior Director of the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), a legal research and educational foundation with a global fellowship of over 120 expert jurists and scholars, and as Executive Secretary to the Climate Law & Governance Initiative, a UN partnership of legal institutions, countries, international organizations and professionals supporting implementation of the Paris Agreement.

At the University of Cambridge, in addition to her Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor role with the Bennett Institute and LCIL, she serves as Director of Studies for LLMs and Law Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College and as a founding Fellow of the Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Governance (CEENRG). She has previously served as general counsel and senior legal advisor to international treaties and organizations, a senior advisor in the Canadian civil service, and head of department in the International Development Law Organization where she assisted over forty countries with legal reforms for sustainable development, as well as a founding Councillor of the World Future Council, among other distinctions.