Vance Center Helps Set Benchmark for Education on the Rights of Nature

July 2019

(Photo Credit: Samir Mehta)

The Vance Center is advising International Rivers in its advocacy and education on the rights of nature with clients in Latin America and around the world. The Environment Program has researched, and prepared a comprehensive report on, international developments in this area.

Recent developments in several jurisdictions, and at the international level, have disrupted the traditional property-based paradigm for the natural environment. Many countries have begun to recognize that certain environmental features have legal rights consonant with a living entity – a trend known as the “Rights of Nature” movement. International Rivers has been using these developments to advocate for an extension of these rights to promote river and biodiversity protection, along with the rights of communities who live nearby.

Courts and legislatures in countries as diverse as Colombia, India and New Zealand have recognized that environmental features can have an independent legal personality. Examples of environmental features include rivers, glaciers and forests. The legal consequences of such recognition are significant: rights allow guardians to have standing to bring cases on nature’s behalf, or give rise to trusteeship obligations owed to natural phenomena by governments, communities and others.

International Rivers has been advocating for an extension of these rights for rivers across the world, especially on behalf of local communities negatively impacted by the degradation of aquatic systems. Loss of goods and services such as water, food, medicines, and building materials is harmful to all. Relying on the Vance Center’s analysis, International Rivers is promoting the rights of rivers in several jurisdictions through meetings with local groups and legal advocates who are drafting laws to secure the rights of rivers.

The Environment Program will be working with International Rivers to develop the report into an effective, publicly-available advocacy document.