Tanzanian scholar to walk away with environmental rights award

Backing marginalised and indigenous groups earns him the prize

THURSDAY March 3, 2022

By Adam Ihucha

Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

A Tanzanian environmental law don, Dr Elifuraha Laltaika, has been nominated for a prestigious global environmental rights award, becoming the first African scholar to receive such a prize, thus raising the continent’s profile high.

Dr Laltaika, a Senior Lecturer of Human Rights Law and Policy at Tumaini University Makumira in northern Tanzania’s safari capital of Arusha, would be recognised for his outstanding impact in law, while painstakingly working to support local communities, particularly marginalised and indigenous groups.

The Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award is given to a scholar from anywhere in the world with “exquisite qualities of both head and heart, mixing academic rigour with spirited activism, and speaking truth to power, while exhibiting kindness towards all”.

It is named after a Ukrainian law Professor who became a citizen of America and the entire world, and it aims at recognising distinguished individuals who exemplify the ideals and works of Professor Kravchenko who passed away in 2012.

She enormously impacted the world but left “unfinished work” that needs continuity. Through their work, award recipients insist: “Environmental rights and human rights are indivisible.”

Dr Elifuraha Laltaika, a Senior Lecturer and Director of Research and Consultancy at the Arusha-based Tumaini University Makumira, Tanzania, wins the Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award. PHOTOS COURTESY

The award winner is selected by the co-directors of Land, Air and Water after nomination by and in consultation with the staff of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), and Professor John Bonine, the professional partner and husband to the late Professor Kravchenko.

The University of Oregon Environmental and Natural Resources Programme students award the prize during the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) considered the largest environmental gathering in the world.

This year, the conference is in its 40th annual session and it will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the conference programme posted in the official website, this year’s awardee is Dr Laltaika. The award goes to a person who “makes broad impacts in the law, while working to support local communities”.

So far there have been only seven recipients since it was issued for the first time in 2012.

The late Svitlana Kravchenko. An environmental rights award has been named after the
Ukrainian law Professor whose dedication to scholarly research resulted in authorship of 12 books, as well as 190 articles and book chapters. PHOTO | UONEWS 
Dr Laltaika, who has guest lectured on the intersection of human rights and the environment in several universities globally,  will receive the award during a public interest environmental law conference beginning March 3-6, 2022, in Eugene, Oregon, in the US.
A Fulbright grantee and a former Harvard law school visiting researcher, Dr. Laltaika joins the ranks of such illustrious recipients as Prof. Oliver Houck (USA), Patrick McGinley (USA), Antonio Oposa (Philippines), William Rogers (USA), Raquel Najera (Mexico) and Svitlana Kravchenko (Ukraine/USA).
“It’s a profound honour for me to join highly distinguished past recipient who have made tremendous contributions to protecting the environment and community rights. More importantly, I feel humbled to be associated with Professor Kravchenko’s work. Her academic contribution to the intersection of human rights and the environment is still so insightful,” Dr Laltaika remarked.
The significance of the award is “to inspire young adults to reach for the stars, while keeping their feet firmly planted in the earth they want to protect as Svitlana did.”

It aims to emphasize that environmental conservation should go hand in hand with respect for human rights.

The Director of Research and Consultancy at Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, Tanzania, brushes shoulders with Taturu girls at Diloda Village in Hanang District, Manyara Region.

It also stresses that local communities and indigenous peoples have the rights to access and use their natural resources, hence rewards exemplary individuals worldwide who typifies that balance in their work.

Apart from being a Senior Lecturer, Dr Laltaika is the director of research and consultancy at Tumaini University Makumira. He teaches Natural Resources Law, Human Rights Law, International law and Jurisprudence/Philosophy of Law.

While at Harvard Law School, Dr Laltaika examined indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights in extractive industries under international and comparative law.

He has consistently combined activism with academic work. In 2016, the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations appointed him to serve as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Prior to that, he worked as a senior fellow at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

The Director of Research and Consultancy at Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, Tanzania, plays a traditional game with Taturu elders in Igunga, the country’s district in Tabora Region.

At the local level, Dr Laltaika has been at the forefront as a defender of local communities’ rural livelihoods. A public interest lawyer, he has trained high court judges, and practicing lawyers on local communities’ natural resources rights, and serves in boards of several non-for-profit organisations.

While working with PINGOs Forum and other organisations, he spent several months among the Barbaig, the Akie and the Hadza communities to understand their unique vulnerabilities.

Recently, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in South Africa engaged Dr Laltaika in proposing innovative legal solutions for protecting hunter-gatherer communal land rights in AfricaΩ

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