The IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC) and the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law held a joint workshop on Monday 13th September at the University of Ghent in Belgium on “Integrating human rights and environmental protection: status quo and ways forward”. This workshop preceded the Academy’s 8th annual colloquium, this year on the linkages between biodiversity and climate change. Justice Antonio Benjamin, Deputy Chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) and Justice of the High Court of Brazil was also present at the event to give introductory remarks.
As opposed to adopting an international perspective and concentrating on procedural rights, this one day workshop focused on the issue of environmental justice at the national level by analyzing the provisions of substantive laws. 14 scholars from different countries introduced human rights and environmental justice concerns unique to their own jurisdiction. Their presentations were followed by a question and answer session.
More specifically, the workshop focused on identifying how people in a particular country face disproportionate effects from environmental harm and how substantive laws can cause or contribute to such inequity, or provide solutions to the problem. The aim was to identify what common legal elements are likely to create environmental inequity, and explore substantive solutions to ameliorate human rights concerns.
The workshop was organized thematically, with presentations on themes such as constitutional rights to environmental protection, human rights and protection from pollution, and human rights and the conservation of natural resources. The ELC presented its newly launched rights-based approach to conservation portal as a way of building synergies and as a tool for further research and discussion.
This workshop took place the day before the Academy’s 8th colloquium, an international gathering that takes place every year on a different theme since 2003 and that has the objective of bringing together professionals, scholars and policy makers to encourage networking and collaboration.