Rights for Nature – Progress in the Protection of Natural Systems

The impact of people on the natural environment through unsustainable use, development, and land transformation is acknowledged as the key threat to biodiversity. Legal frameworks, however, define legal rights and obligations pursuant to achieving specific desirable outcomes. The outcomes and consequences of anthropogenic-driven climate change, global warming, and environmental pollution have exacerbated the demise of biodiversity and natural systems. Our laws and policies, which should reflect our societal urgency to halt the demise, require a new approach to achieve a world which lives in harmony with nature and is backed by governance that ensures sustainability. The Rights of Nature approach is internationally gaining recognition as a viable means. This special session will focus on global and South African perspectives; on the successes and challenges of the Rights of Nature approach to protecting biodiversity, natural systems, and habitats.

Threats, both individually and cumulatively, increasingly undermine the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) and have a significant impact on attaining biodiversity conservation targets such as protected area networks, the Aichi Targets, and carbon emission targets. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines the importance of living in harmony with nature – where all living species are protected. Our laws, governance, and policies must reflect this. Implementing the Rights of Nature provides the approach for the protection of biodiversity and natural systems through granting inalienable rights similar to those afforded to humans. Although the provision of Rights of Nature for natural systems, such as rivers, has been applied in several countries, South Africa has not formalised similar provisions.

Rights of Nature legal provisions are in existence in several countries, some at a national level and others at the local or city level. There is growing recognition that to claw back from what is generally termed the Seventh Extinction, as well as ecosystem pollution and catastrophic climate change consequences, legal frameworks need to be backed by laws and governance ensuring adherence. The Rights of Nature approach provides natural systems with inherent rights to exist, flourish, and evolve. The UN's Harmony with Nature drive underpins nature being viewed not as property, but rather where all living species are protected.

This special session aims to provide:

  • A brief overview of the current global initiatives in attaining Rights of Nature;
  • Opportunities and challenges faced by communities, conservators and law-makers with regards to granting these rights;
  • The manner in which laws would regulate the rights in order to defend, protect, and enforce the rights on behalf of nature;
  • An understanding of how successful implementation of Rights of Nature has been for the restoration of damaged and harmed environments;
  • Case studies or examples of implementation of Rights of Nature; and
  • Issues concerning potential conflicts of rights to nature and human rights.

A panel discussion providing insightful dialogue on the effectiveness of the Rights of Nature to conserve and protect the natural environment will follow the presentations.

Open session – researchers and practitioners are encouraged to submit relevant presentations for inclusion in this session. Participation in the session during the Symposium is open to all. Submissions that cannot be incorporated into the session by the convener will be considered for general sessions in the remainder of the programme.

193 hits