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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

Professor Erica Lyman Exchanges Ideas, Theories and Stories with Armenian Host

October 16, 2013

Professor Erica Lyman, of Lewis & Clark’s International Environmental Law Project, recently returned from Yerevan, Armenia where she took part in a State Department-sponsored Professional Fellows exchange.  Lewis and Clark hosted a rising environmental scholar, Gor Movsisyan, from Yerevan State University earlier in the year, and Lyman travelled to Armenia to complete the exchange and provide insight into LC’s environmental clinics.


Yerevan State University is host to the Environmental Law Resource Centre (ELRC), which focuses much of its efforts on increasing the number and adequacy of opportunities for public participation in environmental decision-making. Guided by Professor Movsisyan and his mentor, Aida Iskoyan, the ELRC served as the host institution and as an incubator for the exchange of ideas, theories, and storytelling.  As formal presentations gave way to informal conversation, personal and professional relationships developed that are sure to endure. Here are Lyman’s reflections on her visit:


“Armenia is a fascinating place. It is at once an ancient culture and a relatively new democracy. As lawyers in a burgeoning democratic society, we shared theories about the rule of law and how to achieve it. We shared our thoughts about the role of the citizen, the role of the activist non-governmental organization, the role of the activist lawyer, the role of the principled academic lawyer, the role of aid money, the role of environmental principles like sustainable development. We shared all of these ideas and stories against the backdrop of a beautiful city and a culturally rich society. These conversations took place in a university that opened its doors long before Lewis and Clark, in a country with a rich tradition of higher education. 


At a development crossroads in many ways, Armenia is sure to face many important environmental decisions, rich in water resources and also rich in metals and minerals, Armenia has important resources to protect and important resources to exploit. The tension between protection and exploitation will play out in the years to come. As that tension unfolds, as a new democracy faces that tension, and as organizations such as the ELRC advocate for basic principles of participation and accountability, I watch with a newly vested interest and passion.


But I will not just watch from an academic ivory tower. As a Professor with the International Environmental Law Project (IELP), the only on-campus international environmental clinic in the U.S., I am in a position to help. Better yet, students will be working with me to help where we can. And even better than that, students from Lewis and Clark Law School may collaborate with students from Yerevan State University at the cutting edge of environmental policy. What started as a narrowly crafted professional exchange is now a bridge to multiple layers of collaboration among and between students, professors, and lawyers.”