In Memoriam - Wolfgang E. Burhenne

Bonn, 11 January 2017 - The CMS Secretariat is sad to have to announce, that Dr. Wolfgang E. Burhenne passed away on 6 January at the age of 92.  An eminent environmental lawyer, Dr Burhenne is considered to be one of the main architects of major international legal instruments in the environmental field, including CMS and its sister Convention, CITES.

In the 1970s, Dr Burhenne was instrumental in persuading Josef Ertl, Germany’s agriculture minister, of the importance of following up the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which took place in Stockholm) concerning the conservation of migratory birds and other species.  As a result, Germany initiated the negotiations that ultimately led to the conclusion of the Convention on Migratory Species, the final act of which was signed in the then German capital in 1979, hence the treaty’s other name – the Bonn Convention.

In addition, Dr Burhenne was one of the signatories of the Morges Manifesto which was launched in 1961 and gave rise to the establishment of the NGO, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – now known as the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Wolfgang will be sadly missed, his passion and belief that law could be the means to environmental protection inspired a whole generation of environmental lawyers today and I am sure for generations to come. His contribution as an architect and father to the conservation movement and development of international environmental law will never be forgotten and will live on in the people he touched and the institutions that he built.

Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary, CMS

His wife, Françoise Burhenne-Gulmin, also a lawyer of great renown in environmental circles and one of the other driving forces behind the creation of the Bonn Convention, died in 2013.

Dr Burhenne’s achievements over decades of engagement did not go unrecognized and understandably over the years, Wolfgang was awarded a number of accolades, including the United Nations Environment Programme’s prestigious Sasakawa Prize, the Knight Commander’s Cross (badge and star) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal.

Even in his nineties, Dr Burhenne was active on the international stage, and with his passing the environmental movement has lost of one its most influential and visionary champions but one that has left a lasting legacy in the many legal texts upon which international conservation policies are founded.

Last updated on 11 January 2017