CLA News / Report on the Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2024


The CLA and the Sabah Law Society, an institutional member organization of the CLA, jointly organized the Borneo Rainforest Law Conference (“BRLC”) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia on 26.2.2024 to 28.2. 2024.The BRLC was held at the Kota Kinabalu Convention Center and the conference hotel for delegates was the Hyatt Centric, Kota Kinabalu.

The BRLC was well attended with 164 delegates (and accompanying persons) from 25 jurisdictions. There were also delegates from non – Commonwealth countries such as Taiwan and Indonesia, as well as representatives from the LAWASIA, Non- Aligned Movement Centre for South -South Technical Cooperation Contact, Lestari Capital, Asian Development Bank, UN Habitat, the Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative, VERRA, ARIEL, A4ID, the Malaysian Bar, the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and the World Wildlife Fund. The BRLC was supported by sponsorship from the Sabah State Government, the Ministry of the Environment of Malaysia, the Malaysian Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Irfan and Irfan Attorneys- at- law (Pakistan), LexisNexis, the Borneo International Centre for Arbitration(“BICAM”) and Mediation and Current Law Journal Malaysia.

The opening reception was generously hosted by BICAM. President of the CLA, Dr. Peter Maynard KC, and the Chairman of BICAM, Tan Sri David Wong, welcomed delegates. There was a sumptuous spread of local culinary delights for delegates.

The keynote address for the BRLC was delivered by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Sebli. His Lordship delivered a very thought-provoking speech that set the appropriate tone for the BRLC. The Commonwealth Assistant Secretary General, Professor Luis Franceschi, also attended the BRLC and gave a welcome address on behalf the Commonwealth Secretary General. Mr. Maynard and Mohamed Nazim Maduarin, President of the Sabah Law Society, also delivered welcome speeches.

The BRLC had 22 sessions and 114 speakers as part of the three day programme.The presentations centered on climate justice and related contemporary issues. The quality of the speakers and the subject -contents were remarkable. The sessions were well attended, and there has been much positive feedback from delegates –

The conference exceeds my expectations”

“Learnt a whole lot of new things and perspectives”

…fascinating, relevant and widely ranging”

There was an impressive and excellent range of presentations”

There was a CLA’s Climate Justice Committee open session that was led by the Co- Chairs of the Committee, Fiona Ey, and Hasan Irfan Khan. There was also a mentoring session on some of the key challenges faced by young lawyers. Fiona MacLeod SC, John McKendrick KC, Roger Chin (the Immediate Past President of the Sabah Law Society and Co – Chair of the Organizing Committee) and I shared our experiences.

One of the hallmarks of the BRLC was the maiden closing dialogue exploring key conference takeaways from panellists drawn from business leaders, lawyers, private and public institutions, academics and civil societies, and the formulation of the Sabah Declaration on Climate Justice. The Declaration affirmed the CLA’s commitment to the SDGs and the Commonwealth Charter. Transformative climate solutions and change are underpinned by human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and the Declaration underscored our collective commitment to these principles at a time that we know is critical for our planet, our lives and our future.

The genesis of the BRLC was from a discussion that Brian Speers (Immediate Past President and Chair of the BRLC Papers Committee), Roger Chin and I (at that time, as Vice President for Australasia) had circa 2022. It was driven by the need to raise membership visibility and to attract new members, as well as to improve our finances. We are pleased that we were able to plan, organize and deliver this bespoke CLA conference of immense importance. We are also happy that we were able to meet the objectives that we had for the BRLC , particularly in improving our finances.

The Sabah Law Society were integral in our efforts, and they are a shining example of an organizational member that can effectively undertake and partner in CLA projects. Our Climate Justice Committee gave us valuable input on the sessions, embraced the idea of a declaration for the BRLC and gave content to it.  Our Council Member for Papua New Guinea, David Denniston, deserves special mention for his tireless efforts, among others, approaching and securing speakers for the BRLC.

Last, but not least, the overall success of the BRLC is due to the indefatigable work of our Secretariat team of Brigid Watson, Clare Roe and Evie Wilson. They performed – as they have so often – beyond the call of duty and are worthy of all the plaudits we have received for the BRLC. The Secretariat team of the Sabah Law Society, led by Vel Claudius ably assisted our team, and should be also congratulated for their unstinting efforts

Steven Thiru

Conference Co-Chair, Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2024

CLA Council member for Malaysia