Cyrille De Klemm: 1927-1999.
Cyrille De Klemm, an environmental lawyer and plant conservationist often described by his peers as "a giant of ecology," died suddenly in Paris in April 1999. De Klemm was born in Switzerland, took a law degree in Aix-en-Provence, France, and made further legal studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. He never practiced as a lawyer, but worked as a professional interpreter between French and English, and soon became interested in conservation. From the 1960s on, he was a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUCN-World Conservation Union) influential Law Commission. As his life progressed, he spent more time as a consultant on environmental law and less as an interpreter. He was deeply involved in all stages of most of the conservation conventions. The 130-plus papers he wrote are almost all concerned with international treaties on conservation, including CITES (Convention in Trade in Endangered Species), the World Heritage Convention, th e Ramsar (or Wetlands) Convention and the Migratory Species Convention. Particularly close to his heart was the Bern Convention, a European agreement on conservation of wildlife and habitats developed by the Council of Europe. In his final days, he prepared a draft strategy for plant conservation in Europe.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was on the Biodiversity Convention. He was the first to call for such a convention and the first to set out its basic design, starting with a resolution at the IUCN General Assembly in Christchurch, New Zealand (1981), calling for a Convention on Genetic Resources. Unfortunately, his idea that those who used biodiversity, whether as food, garden plants, or pharmaceuticals, should pay a small royalty towards the cost of conserving that biodiversity in situ did not survive the governmental negotiations. He compiled the Index of Plants (and animals) in legislation for IUCN and wrote the invaluable book, Wild Plant Conservation and the Law (IUCN, 1990). This book contains his blueprint on how to protect plants by law. Says Françoise Burhenne, IUCN Environmental Law Center, "The heart of his concerns was to define the obligations, and not only the rights, which we have towards nature. In doing so, he was one, of the first in search of a legal t heory t for sustainable development."
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Barbara A. Johnston