Human Rights and the Environment

Return to Course Catalog

Spring 2012 Seminar
Meets: T 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 3016
2 classroom credits

Over the past half century, human rights law and international environmental law have made great strides, largely independent of one another. This seminar examines the connection between human rights and the environment, and efforts to bridge the two distinct legal discourses in the context of advocacy and social movements. What are the origins of efforts to link human rights and environmental movements and where are these movements headed? What do the movements share in common and where do they diverge? What are the main challenges and dilemmas facing those engaged in rights promotion and defense?

The seminar covers a range of substantive issues where the intersection between human rights and the environment arises. This includes local issues, such as environmental justice in the United States or indigenous rights around the world. The seminar also explores pressing issues of global concern, such as the link between climate change and human rights, and explores thematic areas, such as the relationship between conflict and the environment and how the practices of the extractive industry are often connected to environmental problems and human rights abuses.

This seminar introduces students to human rights and environmental advocacy through participation in supervised projects, as well as readings, class discussion, role-playing and participatory evaluation of advocacy strategies. Class sessions will focus on analysis of advocacy from the recent history of the human rights and environmental movements.

Clinical projects will involve work individually or in small groups in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and/or before intergovernmental bodies. The projects will also expose students to ethical and strategic issues that arise in the course of doing fact-finding and advocacy and balancing the often differing agendas of the western international NGOs and their counterparts in the (frequently non-western) Global South.

Students will also participate in skills-building exercises, including a fact-finding role play and media training.

A Spring clinical practice component is required of all students in the seminar, with clinical placements at the International Human Rights Clinic. Enrollment will occur during clinical registration. Please refer to the Subject Areas: Human Rights , Environmental Law , International, Comparative & Foreign Law .