Critical perspectives in Human Rights and the Environment: The 2021 Summer/Winter School

21 – 25 June 2021

The Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosted their first annual, online Summer/Winter school from 21 -25 June 2021 on the theme “Critical Perspectives in Human Rights and the Environment”. 

The Summer/Winter school consisted of a series of lectures and panel discussions, hosted by leading experts, practitioners and researchers working at the cutting edge of human rights and the environment. Participants had an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of many of the most pressing issues of our time, discover and engage with the latest research, and participate in discussions and debates.

The 2021 Summer/Winter School was organised by Dina Lupin Townsend and Angela Kariuki.

All recordings of the panels will be uploaded here:

 Overview of the 2021 programme (all times in CEST/CAT):

21 June
22 June
23 June
24 June
25 June
10.15am Environmental defenders in times of pandemic10am Environmental Rule of Law11am
Climate change & human rights
The marine environment, marine litter & human rights
10 am
The rights of the Child & the Environment
1pm Environmental crime, waste pollution & human rights1pm
Decolonisation & protected areas
Participation as Resistance
Politics, democracy and justice in energy transitions
Business, human rights & the environment
Work In Progress seminar4pm
An introduction to the Escazú  Agreement
Human dignity, human rights & the environment
Rights for Non-humans in the Anthropocene

More about our Summer/Winter School classes:

Environmental defenders in times of pandemic 

This class looked at the important role that environmental defenders play in contributing to sustainable development and addressing threats to vulnerable environments and communities. While environmental defenders often risk their lives and livelihoods in their efforts to protect their environments and the right of their communities, and find themselves under political and corporate attack, the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought a whole new range of challenges. This class looked at the vulnerabilities and resilience of environmental defenders in extreme conditions.

Instructors: Georgina Lloyd, Fran Lambrick, Mary Menton, Pichamon Yeophantong and Dylan McGarry

Environmental crime, waste and human rights

In the class on environmental crime and human rights, participants learnt about environmental crime and its relationship to the right to life and health, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities including children and Indigenous peoples. This class will examine the ways in which vulnerable communities are sometimes forced into environmental crime networks with the false prospect of economic benefits. This class will take place on 21 June at 1pm CEST. Read more about this course here.

Instructors: Aphrodite Smagadi and Amanda Cabrejo le Roux

Environmental rule of law and human rights

In the class on environmental rule of law and human rights, participants will gain critical insights into the meaning of environmental rule of law and into the global movement towards the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. This class will take place on 22 June at 10am CEST. Read more about this class here.

Instructors: Soo Young Hwang and Tumai Murombo

Decolonisation and Protected Areas

This class examines how the creation and governance of protected areas has played a role in the colonisation of peoples and their territories. It examines the idea of decolonisation and Indigenous knowledge and looks at approaches to decolonising protected areas and to the role protected areas can play to decolonisation efforts. This course will take place on 22 June 2021 at 1pm CEST. Read more about this class here.

Instructors: Jess Auerbach, Clive Vinti, Constance Khupe and Tshepo Madlingozi

Work-In-Progress Seminar

The 2021 Summer/Winter school programme includes a Work-In-Progress (WIP) Seminar which will take place on 22 June. David R Boyd (UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment ) will give comments and feedback to participating students who will each have 8-10 minutes to present their work.

Co-ordinator: Astrid Milena Bernal

Commentator: David R Boyd

Climate Change and Human Rights

This class looks at interplay between human rights and climate change law to ascertain how human rights law obligations can support action to tackle the climate emergency at the national and regional level. This course takes place on 23 June 2021 at 11am CEST. Read more about this class here.

Instructors: Annalisa Savaresi, Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh and Sebastien Duyck.

Participation as Resistance

The human right to participation, and in particular rights to information and consultation, have come to play incredibly important roles in environmental decision-making. This class explores the ways in which participation can be a form of protest, aimed not at legitimating environmentally unsound decisions but rather at resisting, subverting and replacing problematic participation practices. This class will take place on 23 June 2021 at 2pm CEST. Read more about this course here.

Instructors: Dina Lupin Townsend, Rebecca Bratspies and Dylan McGarry

Discussants: Uzuazo Etemire and Elisa Morgera

An introduction to the Escazú Agreement

Access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters are essential  to advance the rule of law at the national, regional and international levels. In a context of complex socioenvironmental conflicts and exacerbated inequalities, implementation of environmental access rights is particularly challenging and urgent  in Latin America and the Caribbean. Adopted at Escazú, Costa Rica, on 4 March 2018, the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters is the region’s first treaty on environmental matters and the world’s first to include provisions on human rights defenders in environmental matters. Having met the conditions required under article 22, the Escazú Agreement has entered into force on 22 April 2021, coinciding with International Mother Earth Day. This session will provide an introduction to the Escazú Agreement and identify how it constitutes a  landmark agreement  to address the challenges that  the countries and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean face in exercising their rights to protect the environment.

Instructors: Andrea Brusco, Maria Antonia Tigre and Daniel Noroña

The marine environment, marine litter and human rights

This class will focus on the marine environment, marine litter and human rights and explore issues around government and business responsibility and accountability, as well knowledge gaps and the blind spots we face when it comes to impacts of plastic products (and their additives) and plastic pollution on women, informal workers, disadvantaged groups. This class will take place on 24 June 2021 at 10am CEST. Read more about this class here.

Instructors: Natalie Harms and Elisa Morgera

Politics, democracy and justice in energy transitions

In this class we will enter the contentious field of political debate on energy transitions. We will present why the transition towards clean energy systems is not merely technical. We will discuss the tension between the urgency to move away from fossil fuels in order to mitigate climate change and claims of legitimacy and justice in energy transitions, both globally and in case studies. Read more about this class here.

Instructor: Larissa Basso

Human dignity, human rights and the environment

As courts have begun to recognize the relationship between human and environmental rights, they have increasingly turned their attention to the ways in which environmental degradation, including that which is caused by climate change, affects the right to live with dignity. Thus, courts from countries as diverse as Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, and Pakistan have recognized that the right to dignity includes a right to live in a clean and stable environment. This class will provide an overview of the burgeoning right to human dignity as recognized in international law and in constitutions around the world, and then examine how courts have used dignity rights to advance environmental protection, including protection from climate change. Read more about the class here.

Instructors: Erin Daly and James R. May

Rights for Nonhumans in the Anthropocene

This class asks: who belongs to communities of justice in the Anthropocene? It takes stock of theory and practice pertaining to the rights of artificial intelligence, animals, and nature in order to develop a framework capable of assessing the extent to which nonhumans might be eligible for rights. Read more about the class here.

Instructor: Josh Gellers Discussant: Matilda Arvidsson

Children’s Rights and the Environment

This class will look at the ways in which environmental degradation and climate change create new threats to the rights and interests of children. In recent years, children have been demanding that their rights are respected and prioritised through global children’s resistance movements and climate litigation instigated by child litigants. This class looks at the unique vulnerabilities of children in a time of environmental crisis but also at the ways in which children are political and social actors, influencing international and domestic policy. Read more about this class here.

Instructors: Zita M Nefale, Jonas Schubert and Josefa Cariño Tauli 

Business, human rights and the environment

This class will consider the implications of the field of business and human rights (BHR) for the prevention and remedy of environmental human rights harms. The class will reflect on the challenges and promises of access to remedy in light of recent transnational environmental corporate accountability cases, the lack of ratifications of existing environmental liability conventions, and the BHR treaty process. Read more about this class here.

Instructor: Sara L Seck Discussant: Surya Deva 

The 2021 Summer/Winter School is co-hosted by the GNHRE and UNEP in collaboration with the project Giving Groups a Proper Say: The Pragmatics and Politics of Group Speech funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF project no P33682-G).