A healthy environment is— Rachel Carson
“one of the basic human rights.”
As ecosystems and species across the globe are collapsing, there is a growing understanding that a fundamentally different relationship between humankind and the natural world is needed. Further, there is a growing realization that to create that new relationship, the highest legal protections – grounded in rights-based frameworks – must be established for our communities and nature.
CELDF provides assistance to local, state, and national organizations and governments around the world seeking to advance the rights of nature and the right of local, community self-government. This includes research into existing legal and constitutional structures, drafting of local, state, and national laws, as well as education and training.
CELDF has worked in the U.S., Ecuador, India, Nepal, Canada, Australia, Colombia, and other countries to advance rights-based legal protections for communities and nature.
CELDF’s work outside of the U.S. began in Ecuador. In 2008, CELDF partnered with Fundación Pachamama to meet with delegates to Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly. The Assembly was tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution. CELDF presented to Assembly members on the rights of nature – los derechos de la naturaleza – and at their request, drafted constitutional provisions.
The delegates expanded those provisions, which were approved as part of the constitution in September 2008. As such, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature in its constitution – moving from a property-based framework for environmental protection, to one that is rights-based. Several cases have now been brought, in which Ecuadorian courts have upheld and affirmed the constitutional rights of nature.
CELDF is partnering with Ganga Action Parivar and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance-India to draft the National Ganga River Rights Act. The Ganga River is in severe decline and standard environmental laws and regulations are unable to protect and restore the river. The Ganga Rights Act would recognize rights of the river to exist and thrive, and the rights of the people of India to pure water and a healthy river.
CELDF is partnering with the Center for Economic and Social Development in Kathmandu, as well as civil society and indigenous groups in Nepal, on the rights of nature. CELDF has met with delegates to the Nepali Constituent Assembly, as well as Parliamentary members, and at their request has drafted legislative language.
One of the world’s most mountainous nations, Nepal has seen the U.N. climate change negotiations fail to make progress. In 2009, the Nepalese government held a cabinet meeting at base camp at Mt. Everest to highlight the significant impacts of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers. The glaciers provide much of the country’s water. As one Sherpa told us, the “mountains are turning black” as rock is being exposed with the melting of ice and snow.
Advancing the Rights of Nature Around the World
CELDF is partnering with organizations in Australia, Colombia, Cameroon, India, Nepal, Canada, and other countries to develop rights of nature frameworks. Learn more at our International Law Center. Further, CELDF is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which hosted the world’s first Rights of Nature Tribunal in Quito, Ecuador, in January 2014.
We must respect “the rights of all the rest of creation.”— John Muir