Initiatives: Information

Sébastien Ziegler

Sébastien Ziegler, President of Mandat International since its foundation in 1997, graduated from the Graduate Institute in International Relations, and holds a Master's degree in Human Ecology, as well as a MBA in International Administration.

Mandat International

Environmental law search engine

A Geneva organization specializing in providing services for developing country delegates to international conferences in the region is launching a tri-lingual Web search engine on environmental law.

Q: What led you to launch the project for an environmental law search engine?

A: It is often difficult for jurists to know the international obligations of a country on a specific issue. It is obviously even more difficult for nonjurists. That is the reason why Mandat International has developed a unique multilingual legal search engine on the Web that enables easier, quicker and more systematic legal research ( We started by indexing and analyzing over 250 conventions in the field of human rights and humanitarian law. Each convention has been analyzed article by article, and is available in English, French and Spanish. It permits anyone, even those without any legal training, to have an easy access to the international human rights standards that interest them. The next step will be to include international environmental law. We will also provide a specific portal: We would like to facilitate the work of professionals, to broaden the public awareness of international law and to reinforce the effectiveness of those standards.

Q: What will you cover?

A: The new application will include the roughly 580 multilateral conventions that deal with the environment. In a later stage, Mandat International intends to extend the coverage of the search engine to domains such as health, development, intellectual property or trade. New reporting functions will allow users to obtain statistical reports on various processes.

Q: This seems a lot of work. How will you tackle the job?

A: Mandat International works extensively with a network of volunteers from the Geneva region. Indexation of the 580 conventions, for example, will be overseen by a doctoral student in international environmental law, supported by a team of helpers with previous university training in international public law. The review board includes several authors of articles in this booklet. We work with a number of the international organizations in Geneva, UN bodies and NGOs to provide a better service particularly to developing countries when they come here to attend conferences, and we have 10 years of experience in developing information services on the Web. We think that for the environment, it will take a year, and any support or partnership will be welcome.

A volunteer group that set up a human rights Internet database is going on to do the same thing for environmental law.

Q: Won't this conflict with what is already out there?

A: There are several other searchable databases online dealing with environmental law, such as ECOLEX, operated jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UNEP and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Our search engine will be complementary to databases such as ECOLEX. It is focused on international environmental law and will provide an easier, quicker and more systematic access to the relevant articles of the conventions. Though we hope it will extend and facilitate the research capabilities of legal professionals, our portal will be aimed at non-jurists too. We want to enable ordinary people to become familiar with the treaties and standards that have been agreed to by their home countries.

An academic and governmental partnership with this NGO is enabling it to create a user-friendly series of online databases on international law.