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20 international NGOs defending environmental rights

Client Earth

Operating in London, Brussel, Warsaw, Berlin, and Beijing, Client Earth is a leading organization which brings major environmental cases before courts and prosecutes the responsible ones. Founded in 2008 and aiming to fight for a right to a healthy environment, Client Earth gathered eminent experts covering the following areas: access to justice, biofuels, air pollution, and coal industry. By far, in the fight against climate changes and nature protection, they successfully issued numerous cases against governments in Europe.


As a non-governmental organization based in San Francisco, the United States, Earthjustice holds the ones who break national laws to account. It has 14 offices across the state. Acting as the legal backbone for thousands of organizations, it strives to make the world a better place by providing legal assistance in the fight for environmental protection. Legal experts from this organization represent clients free of charge thanks to various individual donations. Their work is divided into three key goal areas: The Wild, Healthy Communities and Clean Energy and Stable Climate.

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA)

The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization of lawyers that was founded in 1992.  Its aim is to establish a sound environmental and ecological order by using the law as a tool. Firstly, it started as a local group advocating environmental justice and nature conservation, now it represents the response to the global call for a movement of supporting people living in rural areas and rural agronomy countries such as Bangladesh.

Center for International Environmental Law

Established in 1989, CIEL uses the power of law to promote human rights, protect the environment and ensure a sustainable society. It has its offices in Washington, DC, and Geneva, Switzerland where experts provide diverse services such as legal counsel, advocacy, policy research and capacity building across three main areas: Climate and Energy, Environmental Health and People, Land, and Resources. It has a specifically designed internship program for students so it can contribute to the education of future generations that will continue to fight for a healthier and more sustainable environment.

Natural Justice

As a young organization specializing in environmental and human rights, Natural Justice: Lawyers for Communities and the Environment operates in Africa offering support to communities that suffer the negative impact of increasing demand for land and resources. Also, they conduct extensive research on human rights and environmental law and get engaged in national and international processes. Their objective is to integrate international laws at the local level.

Environmental Law Foundation

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) is a charity established in 1992 and registered in England and Wales. Since its beginnings, it is continuously promoting better collective decision-making in a democratic and stable society and helps the voice of ordinary people be heard. The organization has its university-based legal clinics, but it also provides information and guidance on environmental issues for individuals and communities. The network of experts, both technical and legal, provides support to socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

World Organization for the Protection of the Environment

The OMPE (World Organization for the Protection of the Environment) is a french, independent environmental Non-Governmental and non-political organization established in 2013. They deal with environmental problems internationally having an objective to protect the planet Earth by correcting the mistakes made by humans in the past. Their work encompasses biodiversity (fighting endangered species), deforestation, rapid return to clean air and water quality at global level, global warming, energies, fight against all pollution (land, oceans, plastics, insecticides, waves, radiation, etc).

The Environmental Defender Law Centre

The Environmental Defender Law Centre is an NGO focusing on human and environmental rights protection in developing countries. As they claim, harmed environment means harmed communities which depend on such natural resources. Usually, people don’t have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process or other ways to advocate the right to live in a healthy environment. In cases with environmental matters, this organization helps in finding lawyers, provide resources and give grants.

National Environmental Law Center

Working closely with state and local citizen groups, The National Environmental Law Center (NELC) brings corporate polluters to justice. Founded in 1990, this NGO helps the public to shape and enforce environmental laws. By providing legal expertise, they are successful at enforcing and strengthening anti-pollution laws and supporting local restoration and preservation efforts.

Eastern Environmental Law Centre

The Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) is based in New Jersey. It advocates the improvement of environmental issues threatening people, natural resources and communities in the surrounded region.  Also, it provides free legal representation to organizations and individuals who cannot afford it. Their work especially focuses on the protection and preservation of open space and water quality.

UK Environmental Law Association

UKELA (the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association) is an organization from the United Kingdom established in 1988. It represents a forum whose aim is to create better laws for the environment and improve the understanding and awareness of environmental law. Registered as a charity and a limited liability company, it strives to promote the enhancement and conservation of the environment in the UK.

Environmental Law Association 

In June 2008, 30 lawyers, conservationists, and academics gathered and established an independent association- Environmental Law Association. Based in Fiji, the organization aims to protect the environment and promote sustainable natural resource management through law. Its experts conduct training on behalf of the association and provide legal advice in environmental matters.

Environmental Law Association

The Environmental Law Association is an NGO based in South Africa. As the environmental issues are increasing, environmental law on the international scene expands. This organization contributes to a better understanding, teaching and developing of the complex regulatory systems such as environmental law and policies.

Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT)

This organization was founded in 1994 in Tanzania. Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) conducts activities such as environmental and natural resources legal and policy research, advocacy, and selected public interest litigation. The organization has transformed itself through the years and has become the premier public interest environmental and natural resources management and protection organization in Tanzania.

The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) 

The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a non-profit organization established in 1970. It is one of 79 community legal clinics located in Ontario and 15 of which offer services in specialized areas of law. Its objective is to use existing laws to protect the environment and to advocate environmental law reforms. It is also a free legal advisory clinic for the public.

Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development

The Foundation for International Law and Development (FIELD) re-established itself as an independent NGO, after six years of being a subsidiary of International Institute for Environment and Development. Thanks to collaborative work with local partners, NGOs, and institutions, it has a worldwide reputation. Since 2008, it develops its expertise in the application of international environmental law and helps vulnerable countries, communities, and campaigners negotiate for fairer international environmental laws.

Friends of the Earth

Friend of the Earth is the largest grassroots environmental network. It unites 73 national member group and about 5000 local activists groups worldwide. It challenges the economic and corporate model of globalization but also promotes solutions for overcoming issues. Friends of the Earth gather more than 2 million people around the world with the aim to create a sustainable, socially just society, while at the same time striving for gender equality within their own activities.

Global Witness 

Global Witness strives to protect human rights and the environment by confronting corruption and challenging the systems that enable it. Founded in 1993 by people who realized the connection between natural resources, conflicts, and corruption, it aims to uncover truths that are harmful and of public interest. Global Witness has offices in London, Brussel, and Washington and as an independent and non-profit organization asks hard questions: who embezzles the money and how it is being spent.

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) conduct activities such as legal and policy research, advocacy, impact litigation, conflict resolution and civic education aiming to help poor communities to assert and claim their environmental, economic, social and cultural rights. Established in 2000, the ZELA’s objective is to advocate public interest and promote environmental justice, as well as the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, democracy, and good governance.

Environmental Justice Australia

This environment’s legal team and not-for-profit legal practice aspire to create a better legal system that delivers justice to people and the planet. By providing legal advice regarding environmental issues as well as legal support campaigns for social changes, Environmental Justice Australia aims to protect the environment and defend the rights of communities to healthier surroundings.

Each country has its own concerns and battles regarding environmental protection. Globalization encourages us to cooperate jointly and reminds us working on environmental problems should be our priority. Each organization from this list gives its bets in fighting for environmental rights. Therefore, this list doesn’t represent the order by their power or success.

About the author

Ivana Milovac

I am a motivated young lawyer always chasing the opportunities to learn new things, gain experiences and grow professionally. I worked for leading NGOs in the field of environmental protection in Serbia, Environment Engineering Group, so my fields of interest are especially Environmental Law and Human Rights. I coordinated several projects, and took part in many more (training courses, youth exchanges, seminars, job shadowings, conferences, etc.), especially in the following fields: climate changes, water protection, and waste management.