Transformative Capacity Building Around the Right to A Healthy Environment: What Role for 'Dignity' as a Human Rights Value?

Elaine Webster, Elisa Morgera

Abstract


For decades, scholars have explored the potential merits and risks of a formal, self-standing human right to a healthy environment. While some have advocated this right in a way that may be perceived as too ‘thin’ to connect to local experiences, others have critiqued it in a way that may be perceived as too disconnected from the benefits of human rights processes. This article discusses ongoing experiences in Scotland, where a new national human rights framework is being developed. Drawing on this experience, we highlight methods of capacity building as a different channel for thinking about the potential merits of new articulations of a right to a healthy environment, and for developing understandings of this right’s substance applied to specific contexts. Specifically, we reflect on the potential role of the foundational human rights value of respect for dignity as an anchor in capacity building around the right to a healthy environment. We explore an idea of capacity building which facilitates local-level ownership over international human rights law and underpinning values and is focused on implementation. We suggest that this kind of ethos as part of mutual learning and alliance building should be further explored as a means of creating lasting, positive engagement with a rights-based perspective on environmental protection.


Full Text:

PDF

References


A Articles/Books/Reports

Barak, Aharon, Human Dignity: The Constitutional Value and the Constitutional Right (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Beitz, Charles R., 'Human Dignity in the Theory of Human Rights: Nothing but a Phrase?' (2013) 41(3) Philosophy and Public Affairs 259-290

Boer, Ben, 'Environmental principles and the right to a quality environment', Elgar Encyclopaedia of Environmental Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018)

Daly, Erin and James R May, 'Exploring Environmental Justice through the Lens of Human Dignity ' (2019) 25(2) Widener Law Review 177-193

Daly, Erin and James R May, 'The Role of Human Dignity in Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals' in Tuul Honkonen and Seita Romppanen (eds) International Environmental Lawmaking and Diplomacy Review 2019 (University of Eastern Finland – UNEP Course Series 19, 2020)

Daly, Erin, Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012)

Eduardo S Brondizio et al (eds), Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES secretariat: Bonn, 2019)

Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, The Case for a Substantive Right to a Healthy Environment: Prepared by the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland for Case Study to the National Taskforce for Human Rights (Peport, November 2020) < https://www.ercs.scot/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/The-case-for-a-substantive- right-to-a-healthy-environment-November-2020.pdf>

First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership, Recommendations for a new human rights framework to improve people’s lives: Report to the First Minister (Final Report, December 2018)

Grear, Anna and Louis J Kotzé (eds), Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015)

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Initial Scoping Report for Deliverable 1 (c): A thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and the determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity (2021)

Kaufman, Paulus et al, 'Human Dignity Violated: A Negative Approach – Introduction' in Paulus Kaufman et al (eds), Humiliation, Degradation, Dehumanization: Human Dignity Violated (Volume 24 of Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy) (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010)

Knox, John H and Ramin Pejan (eds), The Human Right to a Healthy Environment (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Knox, John H, 'Human Rights, Environmental Protection, and the Sustainable Development Goals' (2015) 24(3) Washington International Law Journal 517

Macrory, Richard, 'Environmental law in the United Kingdom post Brexit' (2019) 19 ERA Forum 643–657

McDermott, Melaine, Sango Mahanty and Kathrin Schreckenber, 'Examining Equity: A Multidimensional Framework for Assessing Equity in Payments for Ecosystem Services' (2013) 33 Environmental Science and Policy 416-427

Merry, Sally Engle et al, 'Law from below: Women's human rights and social movements in New York City' (2010) 44(1) Law & Society Review 101-128

Morgera, Elisa and Gracia Marin Duran, 'Commentary to Article 37 – Environmental Protection' in Peers, Hervey, Kenner, and Ward (eds), Commentary on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (2nd ed, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2013)

Neal, Mary and Elaine Webster, 'Dignity as Rank: Triangulating the relationship between human rights and intrinsic worth conference presentation' (The Future of Human Dignity Conference, 11 October 2016)

Neal, Mary, 'Dignity, Law and Language-Games' (2012) 25(1) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law – Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 107-122

Pascual, Unai et al, 'Social Equity Matters in Payments for Ecosystem Services' (2014) 64(11) Bioscience 1027-1036

Robinson, Mary, ‘Climate Justice – Challenges and Opportunities’ (Speech, Magnusson Lecture, Glasgow, 7 October 2011)

Schlosberg, David, Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements and Nature (Oxford University Press, 2007)

Scottish Government, National Taskforce for Human Rights: Leadership Report (Report, March 2021)

Scottish Government, National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership: Summary of Stakeholder Engagement Events (Report, March 2021) < https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-taskforce-for-human-rights-leadership- summary-of-stakeholder-engagement-events/>

Scottish Parliament Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, ‘Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Agenda (ECCLR/S5/21/3/M)’ (PDF, 26 January 2021) < https://archive2021.parliament.scot/S5_Environment/Meeting%20Papers/ECCLR_202 1.01.26_Meeting_papers_(public).pdf>

Shultziner, Doron, 'Human Dignity – Functions and Meanings' in Jeff Malpas and Norelle Lickiss (eds), Perspectives on Human Dignity: A Conversation (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007) 73-92

Scottish Human Rights Commission, ‘SNAP 2: Proposal for Scotland’s second National Action Plan for Human Rights’, Scotland's National Action Plan for Human Rights (PDF, September 2019)

SNIFFER (Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research), ‘Investigating environmental justice in Scotland: links between measures of environmental quality and social deprivation’ (PDF, March 2005)

Speigelberg, Herbert, 'Human Dignity: A Challenge to Contemporary Philosophy' in R Gotesky and E Laszlo (eds), Human Dignity: This Century and the Next (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1970)

Townsend, Dina L, Human Dignity and the Adjudication of Environmental Rights (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020)

Townsend, Dina, L, 'Taking Dignity Seriously? A Dignity Approach to Environmental Disputes before Human Rights Courts' (2015) 6(2) Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 204-225

United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, UN Doc A/HRC/37/59 (24 January 2018)

United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, UN Doc A/73/188 (19 July 2018)

United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, UN DOC A/HRC/43/5 (30 December 2019)

United Nations General Assembly, Setting International Standards in the Field of Human Rights, UN Doc A/RES/41/120 (4 December 1986)

Vermeylen, Saskia and Gordon Walker, in JoAnn Carmin and Julian Agyeman (eds) Environmental Inequalities Beyond Borders: Local Perspectives on Global Injustices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) 105-128

Waldron, Jeremy, 'Is Dignity the Foundation of Human Rights?' in Rowan Cruft, S Matthew Liao and Massimo Renzo (eds), Philosophical foundations of human rights (Oxford University Press, 2013) 117-137

Warren, Rachel et al, ‘Attitudes to Land Reform’ (Research Paper, Scottish Government, March 2021)

Webster, Elaine and Deirdre Flanigan, 'Localising human rights law: A case-study of civil society interpretation of rights in Scotland' (2018) 22(1) International Journal of Human Rights 22-42.

Webster, Elaine, 'Interpretation of the Prohibition of Torture: Making Sense of 'Dignity' Talk' (2016) 17(3) Human Rights Review 371-390

Webster, Elaine, 'Reconceptualising the Relationship between Rights, Dignity and Intrinsic Worth workshop presentation’ (4th Dignity Rights Virtual Workshop Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 30 November 2018)

Webster, Elaine, ‘The Underpinning Concept of Human Dignity’, Academic Advisory Panel to the National Taskforce on Human Rights Briefing Paper (Briefing Paper, June 2020)

Weinrib, Ernest J, 'Corrective Justice in a Nutshell' (2002) 52(4) University of Toronto Law Journal 349-356

Whiteman, Gail and William H Cooper, 'Ecological Embeddedness' (2000) 43(5) Academy of Management Journal 1265-1282

B Cases

European Court of Human Rights, Bouyid v Belgium App. No. 23380/09 (28 September 2015)

C Legislation

Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill

D Treaties

United Nations, Charter of the United Nations, No 1 UNTS XVI (24 October 1945)

United Nations General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Resolution 217 A (III), 10 December 1948)

United Nations General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations Treaty Series vol. 999 (16 December 1966)

United Nations General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 993 (16 December 1966)

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, 2161 UNTS 447 (Aarhus Convention, 25 June 1998)

E Other

Global Pact for the Environment International Group of Experts for the Pact, Draft Global Pact for the Environment (24 June 2017)

Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, 'Why Scotland needs a human right to a healthy environment', Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland Blog (2 February 2021)

Scottish Government, Scotland’s National Performance Framework: Our Purpose, Values and National Outcomes (2018)

Miller, Alan, 'Time for Leadership', Strathclyde Law School Blog (19 February 2020)

Morgera, Elisa and Alan Miller, 'COVID-19, Environmental Protection & Human Rights Leadership', Strathclyde Law School Blog (28 May 2020)