Statewide network launches to advance local Bills of Rights

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 24, 2020

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The Virginia Network for Democracy and Environmental Rights (VNDER) has announced its official launch.

The purpose of the network is to assist environmental, labor, public health and social justice community groups to advance municipal laws focused on expanding environmental, labor and justice rights.

VNDER will operate through two non-profit organizations, one dedicated to education and training around democracy and environmental issues, with the other dedicated to assisting with community campaigns and other advocacy activities.

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The board of directors for both organizations was recently selected, and includes community organizers from across the state’s different regions. VNDER recently hosted a training for those board members through an on-line workshop facilitated by the national Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER).

“For so long, community groups working on environmental and social justice issues have labored under a system of government that hasn’t recognized their existence,” Victoria Ronnau, the executive director of VNDER, said. “Today is the beginning of the long climb towards assisting those communities to begin using municipal laws to drive forward environmental, public health and human rights that those groups have been focused on for decades. Through a combination of workshops and trainings, and direct assistance to groups on the ground, we hope to drive a new debate which asserts that the role of municipal governments should be to advance and pursue these interests.”

VNDER’s development builds on the work of several hundred communities across the United States, which have drafted and adopted rights-based laws, which seek to leverage municipal law against a system of state and federal law that oft-times favors large commercial interests over the interests of the community.

Thomas Linzey, senior legal counsel for the national Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, (CDER) applauded the launch of VNDER.

“We are proud to partner with VNDER as they assist communities to seize their own lawmaking processes, push off the power of the state and federal government to bully them, and expand human and environmental rights at the municipal level,” he said.

VNDER is located at For those community organizations that wish to access VNDER’s assistance, they can contact