Melinda Janki

Guyana At Large seat

I feel very honoured to have received the 2023 Commonwealth Law Conference Rule of Law award from the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and Lexis Nexis. I think of myself as a true child of the Commonwealth, born in Guyana and growing up in Guyana, England, Zambia and Trinidad. I value highly the CLA’s commitment to the Rule of Law,  the work that the CLA does in supporting and strengthening the legal profession, and in enabling us as lawyers to share our knowledge and experiences and learn from one another.  I would love to make my contribution to the achievement of CLA’s important objectives.

As the world comes more unstable, lawyers often find themselves on the frontline defending the rule of law. I know from my own experience some of the challenges this brings  and how important it is to have solidarity and support from peers across the Commonwealth.

Actions speak louder than words. I am ready to commit the time and energy to champion the CLA. I have an extensive network that could raise CLA’s profile and highlight the excellent work that CLA and individual members are doing. I have in the past overseen the organisation of a very successful judicial colloquium for judges in Guyana as well as numerous lectures, seminars, webinars, and training workshops on various legal issues (e.g. equality/non-discrimination, indigenous rights, environmental law, legal issues around Guyana’s oil). It would be very doable to arrange one or more CLA branded events – with the approval of the CLA. I am sure such events would generate interest in the CLA and lead to new members.

We live at a time when scientists say that climate change is an existential threat and that biodiversity is collapsing. My legal work is now focused on using law to protect the earth and ensure that future generations can have a liveable planet. In September 2023 I was invited to beautiful Kenya for the UNEP Expert Meeting on the rights of nature, a new and developing area of law. I am happy to share that expertise and knowledge with others, particularly young lawyers looking to protect their future.

Over the years, I have served on many different committees and councils –  as a member of the Steering Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, co-chair of the IUCN Task Force on protected areas, chair of the Greater Caribbean for Life, co-founder of Lawyers are Responsible, founder and co-chair of the International Lawyers for West Papua, treasurer of the Solicitors International Human Rights Group, and vice-president of the Guyana Bar Association, among others.  I hope to use the experience I gained and the lessons I learned from working with lawyers from around the world, in order to strengthen and contribute to the growth of the CLA.

I read law at University College, London (UCL); followed it with the BCL from Oxford and later an LL.M in public international law from UCL. I worked in London for the city law firm Lovells and then for BP(British Petroleum) before returning to Guyana to take up a partnership in a law firm. As an independent expert I have drafted several of Guyana’s laws including the Amerindian Act 2006 which guarantees land rights and internal self-government for indigenous and non-indigenous Amerindians, the Protected Areas Act and the Environmental Protection Act.  As an international lawyer I have worked on the Escazu Agreement, advised governments and worked as a consultant to the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Commonwealth Development Corporation, DfID (UK), KFW (Germany) and USAID.