The relationship between international human rights law and the environment has been of interest to scholars and activists for some time, yet recent years have seen a rapid evolution of the issues. Increasingly, activists bring cases relating human rights concerns to issues such as climate change, the discriminatory effects of environmental degradation, and soil and water pollution from mineral exploration activities. Matters are heard before domestic courts and international human rights bodies, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights. The high visibility of transnational and global environmental challenges, and the severe impacts they impose upon vulnerable groups — including women, children, and indigenous people — has generated interest in the role that international human rights and environmental law play in addressing such problems.

The UN Human Rights Council appointed an independent expert on the human right to water in 2008, and the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized a human right to water in 2010. More recently, in 2012, the Human Rights Council appointed John Knox, a U.S. law professor, as an Independent Expert on human rights and the environment.

As Professor Knox has noted, many issues still require further study and clarification. This symposium represents one important effort to explore pressing issues in the field. The main papers for this symposium address: the relationship to food security; compensation questions related to the rising sea-level caused by climate change; the rights of indigenous people to land and natural resources; and the relationship between substantive and procedural components of the human right to a healthy environment.


Santa Clara University School of Law

Santa Clara Journal of International Law

Center for Global Law & Policy

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics


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Friday, January 24th
9:45 AM

The Human Right to a Healthy Environment

Marcos Orellana, Center for International Environmental Law
Margarette May Macaulay, Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Williman Room, Benson Center

9:45 AM - 11:15 AM

11:30 AM

Promoting Food Security: Human Rights, the Environment and the Fragmented Nature of International Legal Regulation

Sumudu Atapattu, University of Wisconsin School of Law
Carmen Gonzalez, Seattle University School of Law

Williman Room, Benson Center

11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

2:30 PM

Rehabilitation: A Proposal for a Compensation Mechanism For Small Island States

Damiola Olawuyi, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law
Randall S. Abate, Florida A&M University College of Law

Williman Room, Benson Center

2:30 PM - 4:00 PM

4:15 PM

Keynote Address

Dinah Shelton, George Washington University

Williman Room, Benson Center

4:15 PM - 5:15 PM

Saturday, January 25th
9:00 AM

Indigenous Human Rights and the Ethics of "Remediation": Redressing the Legacy of Uranium Contamination for Native Peoples and Native Lands

Rebecca Tsosie, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Robert T. Coulter, Indian Law Resource Center
Elizabeth A. Kronk Warner, University of Kansas, School of Law

Williman Room, Benson Center

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM