Human Rights

Dr Tom Kerns













Discussion Questions for
Romina Picolotti and Jorge Daniel Taillant,

Linking Human Rights and the Environment


Chapter I
Dinah Shelton, "The Environmental Jurisprudence of International Human Rights Tribunals"

  1. Shelton discusses several specific rights that have bearing on environmental issues. Select two or three of those rights that you found of particular interest, and describe what you found interesting about the discussion of those particular rights.

Chapter 2
Alexandre Kiss, "The right to the Conservation of the Environment"

  1. In chapter two we learn that United Nations Resolution 45/94 declares that "all individuals are entitled to live in an environment adequate for their health and well-being." Explain in your own words what you understand this statement to mean, and what duties you understand it to claim that states have.

  2. Kiss discusses three key elements of the right to the conservation of the environment: a) the right to environmental information, b) the right to public participation in environmental decision making, and c) the right to a remedy for environmental harm.
    1. Briefly describe what you understand each of those rights to be.
    2. Which of those rights do you consider the most important? Why?

  3. On p 40 we see that the Preamble of the Aarhus Convention states that "every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations." What do you think about declarations that include statements about both rights and duties?

Chapter 3
Romina Picolotti, "Agenda 21 and Human Rights: The Right to Participate"

  1. What is Agenda 21?

  2. In discussing the right to participate, chapter 3 identifies four kinds of participation (p 52). Which of those kinds of participation would you consider most appropriate for the group/issue you are researching this quarter? Please explain.

  3. What do you see as the primary benefits and costs (pp 54-55) of that participation for the issue/group you are researching? Please explain.

Chapter 7
Caroline Dommen, “How Human Rights Norms Can Contribute to the Environmental Protection”

  1. On p 105 we learn that in most international environmental law only states have standing, while in human rights law individuals have standing. What do you understand this to mean and do you think it is important?

  2. What do you understand the last sentence on p 108 to mean?

  3. In the middle paragraphs of p 109 we learn that international treaty bodies do accept information and testimony from NGOs, and that there are advantages to NGOs that take advantage of that option. What do you understand those advantages to be? Do you think they are significant?

  4. In the last paragraph on p 114 Dommen says that “the most useful aspect of using any human rights mechanisms for environmental protection lies in the capacity of these mechanisms to serve as hook for the “mobilization of shame.” What do you understand this to mean?

Chapter 9
Annecoos Wiersema, "Sharing Common Ground: A Cautionary Tale on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Protection of Biological Diversity"

  1. Wiersema outlines some differences between how indigenous peoples view the environment and how industrialized peoples view it. What are some of those differences?

  2. If, in some situation, a conflict were to arise between the principle of preserving biodiversity and the rights of an indigenous community, which principle do you think ought to be given a higher priority, the rights of the indigenous community or the preservation of biodiversity? Why?

  3. Select one aspect of this chapter that you found particularly interesting, then explain what was interesting to you about it.