TEA Project Named Finalist for World Justice Challenge Award

April 04, 2019

The World Justice Project has selected the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law’s Transnational Environmental Accountability (TEA) Project as a finalist for the World Justice Challenge 2019 Access to Justice Award. One of 30 finalists selected from among hundreds of nominees, the TEA Project’s goal is to develop strategies for holding multinational companies accountable for the environmental harm they cause in developing countries. Maryland students and faculty working on the TEA Project will participate in the World Justice Forum VI at The Hague from April 29-May 2 where five winners will be announced. 

The TEA Project is staffed with students from the Environmental Law Clinic and the Global Environmental Law Seminar. It is directed by Lecturer in Law Zhang Jingjing, an award winning public interest environmental lawyer from China who has been monitoring the environmental performance of Chinese companies operating in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. 

At present many multinational companies operating in the developing world do not understand or simply disregard local environmental laws and regulations. The project seeks to ensure that the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has greatly expanded Chinese investment in developing countries, will be a green Belt and Road.

Robert Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental Law Program at Maryland Carey Law, has worked extensively in China and notes that the TEA Project is uniquely capable of helping to ensure that China’s efforts to clean up its domestic environment do not simply transfer pollution to developing countries.

"Zhang Jingjing, who has been called 'the Erin Brockovich of China,' is that country’s most experienced public interest environmental litigator," Percival notes, "and now that she has moved to the US and joined the Maryland faculty as a Lecturer of Law, she is uniquely qualified to direct the TEA Project."  

In June 2019 faculty and students from the project will travel to Guinea to assist community groups in redressing environmental harm caused by a large bauxite mine operated by a Chinese company. Sisi Liu, one of the law students traveling to Guinea, praises the TEA Project for providing her with a "unique opportunity" to apply concepts she has learned in the classroom to real world environmental problems. Seema Kakade, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic emphasizes that the project allows students to gain "international experience," that is highly valued by employers in a world where environmental issues increasingly "are cross-jurisdictional in scope."

Another student, Emily Schenning, describes working on the TEA project as "one of the most rewarding experiences" of her law school career. "Not only do we get the chance to learn more about global environmental issues, but our work also has a direct impact on those adversely affected by transnational companies." She continues, "This is precisely the kind of work I had hoped to be a part of when I decided to attend law school and it is a privilege to be able to work on such an exciting project while still in school." 

The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization founded in 2006 as a presidential initiative of the American Bar Association (ABA) to advance the rule of law worldwide. The World Justice Challenge 2019 is an open competition designed to identify, recognize, and promote good practices and successful solutions that advance the rule of law.

In addition to presenting the TEA Project to a global audience, Maryland faculty and students will participate in a joint working session at the World Justice Forum on "Legal Tools for Advancing Environmental Justice and Public Health." The TEA Project is co-leading the working session with the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, and the United Nations Environment Programme.