Legal Innovation Team

Re-Imagining Sabah's Legal Ecosystem

The aim this project is to deliver cutting edge legal advice and support to Forever Sabah, including identifying strategic entry points in the law for promoting a transition to a circular economy, and providing platforms for developing innovative policy, legal and institutional frameworks.

FS is working to achieve this goal by exploring several areas of collaboration, including:

  • Civil society-legal fraternity-academia partnerships to conduct critical reviews and analyses of Sabah’s land and environmental laws, evaluate innovative legal frameworks and institutional arrangements in other countries, and track relevant international decision-making processes.

  • Community-civil society-industry-judiciary-government partnerships to promote appropriate and fair implementation of existing supportive laws and legal processes and to develop new and innovative legal and policy reforms where needed.

  • Collaboration with regional and international networks to share good practices and build on lessons learned from legal innovation experiences in other jurisdictions.


In stark contrast to physical landscapes and seascapes, in which biotic and abiotic factors are intrinsically connected, the law attempts to address each part of the ecosystem – including land, forests, biodiversity, water and wildlife – as separate components. The net result is that laws and institutional arrangements are at the same time fragmented and overlapping.


Sabah is no exception and is even further complicated by the existence of three parallel court systems and gaps or conflicts between state and federal jurisdiction over environmental matters.


However, the law can also be a positive catalyst for collaboration, empowerment and innovation. It can provide space for constructive discussions between otherwise opposing parties about contentious issues such as Indigenous peoples’ access to protected areas and forest reserves. Doing so will require: a) a full understanding of the legal and institutional frameworks that govern particular social-ecological systems (such as the Telupid Forest Complex); b) an evaluation of how the legal system is supporting or hindering the functional connectivity (ecosystem, social-cultural, economic, etc.) and overall resilience of the system; and c) where there is a need to improve the legal system, the co-development of innovative legal responses or approaches.


As a starting point, the Legal Innovation Team is developing a multimedia handbook on land and environmental policy and law in Sabah. As the first major step towards this, we have produced a series of briefs which aim to provide accessible and accurate overviews of key laws, policies and institutions. However, they remains works in progress and should not replace a thorough reading of the official documents themselves.


We are grateful to the volunteer legal researchers and anonymous reviewers who have provided inputs to date. We welcome further comments on content, format and the briefs' potential development and uses. Download the briefs below:

Environmental Law and Policy in Sabah - Vol 11 - Sharks and Rays-01.png