David Naibei  at the University of Cincinnati College of Law

Beyond Borders

David Naibei's Global Environmental Law Journey

In the tapestry of environmental consciousness and legal advocacy, the journey of David Naibei (LLM, ‘23) unfolds as a testament to the profound impact of early education on climate awareness.  

Born and raised in N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad, one of the hottest countries in the world, David witnessed firsthand the repercussions of escalating temperatures and a lack of government regulation. But it wasn’t until high school, during an environmental awareness workshop put on by the NGO Espaces Verts du Sahel, that he realized how the devastation he saw around him could be directly tied to climate change.

“It was common to hear of people suffering and even dying because of lack of water, the terrible heat, or other environmental issues,” said David. “But it wasn’t until the workshop that I realized everything I've seen my whole life, people dying around me, was related to climate change.”

Chad, a nation strained by a lack of natural resources supporting a population exceeding 17 million, epitomizes the environmental catastrophes manifesting around the world. Most notably, Lake Chad, once covering over 10,000 square miles and touching four surrounding countries (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad), has receded almost to the point of vanishing. Losing this body of water would mean losing one of Africa’s largest water reservoirs. 

“At this point, Lake Chad is over 90% empty,” David said. “When you consider the economics, our country is benefiting a lot from this lake. It produces a lot of fish and supports the Kuri beef population, a type of cattle unique to this area.  But that lake is disappearing. That means so are those animals and jobs…Think what will happen to them if the lake disappears completely.”

Fascinated by the far-reaching ramifications of climate change, after high school David dove headfirst into environmental law and business. Knowing that what was happening in his own country was a harbinger of what was to come across every nation, his academic pursuits went global.

First earning a Master’s in Business Law and next in Environmental Law (in Senegal and France respectively), David was then awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. He was placed at The University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he recently earned his third Master’s degree— an LLM in the US Legal System with a Concentration in International Legal Studies.  

David Naibei

“I chose to study law so that I can work in either lawmaking or law enforcement and see the biggest impact possible from my actions,” he said. “But I never set out to get three Master’s degrees!” 

Navigating the challenge of learning a new legal system and culture, David found support in the LLM program directors and professors who welcomed international students with weeks of events and trainings to help them get acclimated. 

“Dean Nora Wagner and Mieke [Clincy] did a tremendous job helping me settle in,” he attested. “And all of the professors at Cincinnati Law are really responsive. They're not just doing their job, they really want to help you to understand."

With only two mandatory classes required of LLM students, David said he took full advantage of the range of electives offered and today feels more poised to pursue his goal of becoming an international environmental lawyer and speaker. On top of that, he has a network of fellow LLM students from across the globe that he has remained in contact with even after the program’s end. 

“The fact that you have all these countries coming together in the LLM program is a strength of the program. I got to learn not only from the US legal system, but also from classmates from all over the world,” he said. “Even after the program has ended, I am still in touch with all of them. We still have each other.”

All of the professors at Cincinnati Law are really responsive. They're not just doing their job, they really want to help you to understand.

David Naibei

Perhaps the pinnacle of his time at Cincinnati Law was landing an externship at Altman Newman, a local Cincinnati law firm specializing in environmental law. David said he seized on the opportunity offered at Cincinnati Law to gain practical insights into environmental litigation not attainable within the walls of a classroom lecture.

“At first, the externship director was honest with me and said not many law firms are focused in my area of passion. So, the fact that they found an externship at a firm that focuses on environmental law shows how committed Cincinnati Law is,” he explained. “I love what I do here. I'm learning a lot of things that you can't learn just by taking classes.” 

"I chose to study law so that I can work in lawmaking or law enforcement and see the biggest impact possible from my actions.”

- David Naibei, LLM ‘23

David Naibei

A seasoned speaker, David was still in high school when he first shared his story in front of a global audience that included members of the United Nations for the RIO+20 Conference. More recently, he presented at the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit in Cincinnati.  His overarching message echoes the same one that spurred his journey years ago: a common plea for environmental consciousness that transcends borders and industries.  

While acknowledging his own limitations as one man, it is his hope to expose and litigate environmental violations internationally, while continuing to share his story and teach young people about what he calls “eco-citizenship,” or efforts individuals can make in their everyday lives.

”I know I don't have a lot of money. I don't have a lot of power to make a great change on my own,” he said. “But I really believe that training children is one of the best ways to make bigger changes in the future. I am evidence of that.”

Making it this far in his quest for environmental justice, David remains committed to advocacy, knowing there is much left to do. In his pursuit of greater understanding and climate consciousness, he has become an exemplary model of the power of environmental law, advocacy, and international relationships in the face of this burgeoning global crisis. 

“People need to know that climate change is real,” he continued. “People who don't believe that it's real didn't receive the appropriate education. I don’t blame them… But I would like to let them know that it's real. We're all in the same boat. We may face different problems, but they’re all environmentally related.”

David Naibei

Want to learn more about our students and their journey to (and through) law school? Read more stories on the "Meet Our Students" page. See yourself at Cincinnati Law!   

Author: Bachmeyer Press

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