A tribute to Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin

26 August 2013 | News story
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It is with great sadness that IUCN announces the passing of Dr Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin after a protracted illness.

This is a tremendous loss to the organisation and, in particular, to its Environmental Law community.

 Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin is a prodigious example of a lifetime’s dedication to the conservation of the environment through the conceptual development of its legal dimension. After graduation as a Doctor in Law at the University of Brussels in 1966, Françoise was appointed Secretary to the IUCN Commission on Legislation. From 1970 to 1972 she worked as Legal Officer and in 1973 became Head of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC) in Bonn, the position she held until 1999. From that time onwards she worked as Senior Counsel to the three consecutive directors of the ELC.

Françoise was instrumental in drafting and elaborating a number of international conventions, agreements and instruments, such as the African Convention for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora –CITES; the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the World Charter for Nature; the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Her real passion was the development of technical capacities through access to information on environmental law and policy. That is why already in the 1970s, she initiated the Environmental Law Information System (ELIS), presented at the Stockholm Conference, which over the years evolved into the far more sophisticated online information system ECOLEX, the Gateway to Environmental Law.

Françoise’s commitment to the young generation of environmental lawyers was extraordinary. She provided encouragement and support to numerous researchers and interns from all over the world. IUCN Council paid tribute to this in January this year by establishing the Françoise Burhenne Fellowship in Environmental Law as a way to build on her legacy.

Her lifelong contribution to environmental law was acknowledged through many recognitions, distinctions and awards such as the Better World Society Medal for Protection of the Global Environment (1989), the 1991 International Environment Prize of the United Nations, and the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law (2008).

Her uncompromising demand for accuracy and precision not only in her own but also in the work of others, her determination mixed with kindness, her legendary hospitality in Oelinghoven will be remembered by everyone who experienced them.

She was a remarkable and passionate lawyer who not only shaped the IUCN agenda on policy and law, but influenced the lives of many lawyers around the world. Her daily presence will be missed by the entire organisation, but in particular by her colleagues at the Environmental Law Centre.

Should you wish to share your memories of Françoise Burhenne-Guilmin or write some words of condolence, kindly post your text below.


1 Angela Ruiz IDEM
Mis condolencias
Tuve el privilegio de conocer a Françoise, una dama y una profesional extraordinaria, con gran pena he tomado conocimiento de su partida, su legado para el derecho ambiental perdurará por siempre.
à bientôt Françoise!

February 11, 2014 - 22:56
2 Paola
Querida Françoise, nuestro paso por este mundo es breve y solo dejan huella quienes luchan por ser felices y hacen felices a los demás. Gracias por compartir experiencias y por acercarme un poco más a la que creo es mi misión en esta vida. Siempre te recordaré con mucho cariño. Descansa en paz.
October 7, 2013 - 14:12
3 Jane Smart IUCN
The world owes you
I wonder if the world knows just how much we owe Françoise. This is the woman who led on the drafting of what we now know as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and from the papers I have, it is clear that a great deal of the intellectual content of this crucial piece of international law came from her. I also remember a kind and lovely person who, way back in 2000 at the IUCN Congress in Amman, took a great deal of trouble to explain to me the amazing work of the IUCN Commission and Programme on Environmental Law. Sadly missed.
October 3, 2013 - 12:26
4 Hans Friederich former IUCN staff
Goodbye Francoise
I cannot remember when I first met Francoise - it was in the early nineties when I worked in the Eastern Africa Regional Officer. She has been "there" ever since - IUCN Congresses, global conferences and other key events. She was part of the TEMATEA discussions in Brussels a few years ago, and joined us at the 2011 Regional Members meeting in Bonn. She will be missed.
My sincere condolences go to Wolfgang.
September 30, 2013 - 14:02
5 Juan Rodrigo Walsh Estudio Walsh
Francoise was an inspiration to most legal practitioners in the fueld of environmetnal law. Her contribution will be much remembered by those whe had the fortune to know her personally or to have benefitted from her extensive work on conservation and environmental law
September 15, 2013 - 22:26
6 Jean-Christophe Vié
It is great sadness that I learnt the loss of Françoise. I did not know her well and met her only a few times but her name was so much linked to IUCN. Meeting her for the first time was a great moment. This happened in Bonn during a meeting of the Convention on Migratory Species. It was a fun meeting and she greatlycontributed to this by her kindness, sense of humour and of course her great experience and knowledge. I heard so many good things about her from colleagues. Each encounter was a real pleasure. I wish I could have had many more of these. All my sympathy to Wolfgan
September 12, 2013 - 16:53
7 Rod Salm The Nature Conservancy
Remembering with humility and gratitude
How generous with her time was Francoise in my early years of reviewing and developing policy and environmental law proposals and working effectively with various legal instruments. As an ecologist this was new and confusing territory that Francoise helped me navigate with a true mentor's consummate patience and interest. My sincere condolences to Wolfgang, who too played a part those many decades ago.
September 10, 2013 - 03:57
8 Hal Eidsvik WCPA(ret.)
A huge loss
Francoise & Wolfgang created a world of "Conventions" which have led to better management and understanding of our conservation world. She was a tireless worker and a great hostess,Malvina and I send our condolences to Wolfgang.
September 9, 2013 - 19:57
9 Worku Damena Yifru
Thank you Francoise
The passing of Francoise is indeed a major loss for the environmental law community. Her life long dedication to the cause of environmental protection remains a source of inspiration to all of us. Her leadership role and contribution towards updating the 1968 Algiers Convention was one of her monumental achievements. Thank Francoise, and may you rest in peace!
September 9, 2013 - 19:03
10 Nikita Lopoukhine WCPA
A life worth celebrating
We are all deeply affected by the loss of Francoise. The legacy of her life's work touches us all. Global Conventions reflect her contributions and her devotion to protected areas, in particular, continue to realize conservation benefits. It has been a privilege to have known and worked with Francoise, a warm, pleasant and dedicated colleague. Walter, my condolences.
September 9, 2013 - 15:05
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