Developing environmental law

Ashoka Fellow, Mexico City, Mexico


Gustavo Alanis is creating the legal infrastructure to reverse the environmental decay in Mexico and prevent the destruction of its vital natural resources. The roots of Mexico’s environmental problems are many - negligent factories, naïve citizenry, corrupt governments, and faulty public works. Without a rigorous enforcement of Mexican environmental laws and NAFTA standards, the environment will continue to suffer and quell economic development.

To initiate the process of ensuring enforcement of Mexican environmental laws, Gustavo founded the Mexican Center of Environmental Law (CEMDA) in 1993. Gustavo's initiative soon grew to include a base of 16 lawyers and a national alliance of citizen sector organizations. CEMDA launched several high-profile environmental law suits, building a body of precedents in Mexico. For the first time in the history of the Mexican judiciary, CEMDA has developed and implemented environmental law training courses for judges, magistrates, and their staff, all of whom are unfamiliar with national and international environmental protection parameters. Gustavo and his colleagues work simultaneously with law schools to ensure that future generations of lawyers receive training in environmental law. At the Iberoamerican University, for example, an environmental law module has already been made a required part of the curriculum. CEMDA has spread to many Mexican states, and is serving as a model for environmental law initiatives in other parts of Latin America, addressing the challenges set forth by NAFTA to all of North America.

CEMDA is an environmental consultant to many organizations in Mexico’s citizen sector, the Government, and industries. For his far-reaching impact, Gustavo was recently nominated to be the NAFTA Environmental Commissioner.

Speech Topics

  • NAFTA and Environmental Protection
  • Economy and the Environment
  • Environmental Affairs in Mexico and Latin America