Combining the International Protection for Nature and Human Rights

University essay from Lunds universitet/Juridiska institutionen

Abstract: The number of situations where both people and nature are harmed by human activities are increasing in the same pace as mankind is augmenting its control and so called 'development' of the Earth. Although previously much debated, we have passed the stage when protecting human rights and preserving the environment were seen as conflicting interests. Instead we have reached the conclusion that a good life for millions of people is depending on preservation of the environment around us. To add something to the twoheaded task of preserving both the environment and respecting human rights this thesis' focus is to analyse those problematic situations where environmental destruction is combined with human right violations, i.e. 'environmental human rights violations'. A very good example is the well-known complex and all encompassing case in Nigeria, where oil extraction caused environmental destruction, but also severe human rights violations. To prevent or stop situations like this using international law, an analysis of both the international protection for the environment and the international protection of human rights is necessary. These violations are currently regulated in those two different areas of law and to provide the broadest protection possible it is necessary to look at what protection both of them could provide. The thesis analyses the advantages and the disadvantages of the two areas of law, and also pinpoint specific areas where the choice for either area of law provides advantages compared with the other. Thus, the material provisions, the rate of ratifications and the difficult process of implementation is discussed to look for viable ways to prevent 'environmental human rights violations'. In conclusion, the thesis partly adheres to the traditionally recognised view that international human rights provides stronger protection than environmental laws and presents examples of how human rights has been used by environmentalists to stop environmental destruction including human rights violations. Anyhow, this thesis also suggests that for some areas the interchange could be reversed. The popular support for environmental protection, the flexible construction of environmental treaties and States self-interest in protecting the environment are proposed as reasons for human rights lawyers to look for the international environmental regulation when arguing the case of an 'environmental human rights violation'. Finally, it is suggested that decisions on which area of law to use in a given situation have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Facing such a problem, the author hopes the conclusions of this thesis to be a useful start for necessary considerations and a help to be able to benefit from the advantages of both areas of law.

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