The 4th session of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, held concurrently with the 23rd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP23), exposed the significant role which legal systems play in enabling climate change and global environmental degradation. The Tribunal heard seven cases from around the world which collectively demonstrated that global and national climate change commitments cannot be met without fundamental changes to the legal systems which legalise the activities that cause climate change and the destruction of the ecological systems on which life depends. This is a global problem – one of the cases concerned a massive lignite mine approximately 50 kms from the COP 23 negotiations.
The Bonn Tribunal consisted of 9 judges from 7 countries, and was presided over by the prominent indigenous climate and environmental justice leader, Tom Mato Awanyankapi Goldtooth. Over the course of two days, 53 people from 19 countries speaking over 7 languages presented cases regarding violations of the rights of Nature. A range of experts who testified before the Tribunal explained that whatever is agreed at the COP 23 and subsequent meetings, action to combat climate change will be ineffective while governments continue to authorise coal mines, oil wells and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), and the mining of groundwater, and allow corporations to use investor state dispute settlement mechanisms in trade agreements to prevent the taking of effective measures to protect life.
Witnesses gave first-hand accounts of what it is like to live near fracking operations, oil wells and refineries, and coal mines, about how those who defend Mother Earth are persecuted, attacked, criminalised and have their homes burnt. It heard of the anguish of indigenous and other peoples from local communities who live in intimacy with Nature as it is destroyed by roads, mines or industrial agriculture in order to benefit a small elite.
Indigenous peoples from around the world played a prominent role throughout the Tribunal as experts and witnesses. The Tribunal opened with deeply moving ceremonies and evocations of Mother Earth by representatives of the Sámi people of Europe, the Sarayaku community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the indigenous peoples of North America. Indigenous peoples from Africa, Russia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guyana, and the USA/Turtle Island presented testimonies that drew the Tribunal’s attention to the sacredness of Earth – a dimensions ignored in the COP 23 negotiations.
The Tribunal found that in each of the seven cases, serious and systematic violations of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME) had occurred, often accompanied by human rights violations, and in several cases the harm was so severe as to constitute ecocide. In each case the legal system did not provide adequate remedies to prevent on-going harm. In most cases the harm was caused by activities such as deforestation and mining which could only take place because they had been authorised by law. It was abundantly clear those legal systems that elevate property rights and the rights of corporation above the rights of water, air and ecosystems to exist and contribute to the ecological health of the planet, are exacerbating climate change by clothing destructive activities in a cloak of legal legitimacy. The Tribunal noted that carbon, biological and conservation offsets and ecosystem services are financialisation processes that enable Nature to be privatised, commodified and traded in financial market systems. Carbon market are false solutions that do not cut emissions at source.
OSPREY ORIELLE LAKE
is the Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). She works nationally and internationally with grassroots and Indigenous leaders, policy-makers and scientists to mobilize women for climate justice, resilient communities, systemic change and a just transition to a clean energy future. Osprey serves on the Executive Committee for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and is the visionary behind the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit, which brought together 100 women leaders from around the world.
FERNANDO “PINO” SOLANAS
is a cinema director and Argentinian politician, currently National Senator for the City of Buenos Aires, after being elected in the 2013 legislative elections. He presides the Senate’s “Commission on Environment and Sustainable Development” As a Senator he promoted bills such as recognizing Nature as the subject of Rights and the prohibition of mega-mining activity. He has also stimulated debates within the National Congress on the issue of GMOs, fumigation, fracking, climate change, among others. His proposal focuses on the recovery of the natural resources of Argentina, the defense of Nature and the end of the negotiations of large companies of income, capital, mining, oil, etc. to make available to the national state those economic resources, redistributing them, to end poverty and indigence. He has also made a series of films related to natural resources and the defense of Nature. He was a presidential candidate of the Republic Argentina in the elections of 2007.
is a political ecologist, researcher and eco-feminist from Kenya whose work focuses on the intersections of gender, economy and ecological justice in Africa. She has previously worked as the advocacy and communications coordinator for the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), a founding member network of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). Ruth presently works with several national and regional agrarian/ecological justice movements challenging the neo-liberal onslaught that seeks to privatize and commodify the commons (seeds, land, labor, traditional and/ indigenous knowledge) etc. These movements are also actively working on radical alternatives grounded in freedom and justice for all. Ruth is also a member of the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN), which brings together climate justice activists from around the continent who reject the financialization of nature and specifically forest related carbon market mechanisms such as REDD/REDD+. The network offers political education related to the climate crises and the radical solutions needed.”
Is the co-founder and Executive Director of Movement Rights, advancing legal rights for communities, indigenous peoples and ecosystems. Working in California and with Native American tribes and allies nationally, Shannon assists communities to ban harmful projects by passing binding laws that assert the rights of communities and nature over corporate projects.
is a director of the Wild Law Institute as well as of Cullinan & Associates Inc. a leading environmental law firm in Cape Town, and of the law and governance consultancy, EnAct International. He has drafted environmental laws, policies and strategies and advised on institutional reforms in more than 20 countries. Cormac’s ground-breaking book Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice developed the Earth jurisprudence approach and helped inspire the growing global rights of Nature movement. Cormac led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, was one of the founders of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.
has worked with the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal since 2007 as coordinator of its processes, closely involved with the movements, associations and communities, as well as the international experts convened by the PPT. The Sessions she has coordinated were related to cases of severe violations of human rights caused by States and private actors, committed in Latin America, Asia and Europe. In particular, the cases of Colombia (2006-2008), Mexico (2011-2014), the case of the women working in the garment industry in Asia (2011-2014), and the case of the megaprojects implemented in Italy and Europe (2014-2015). She has also coordinated the recent Session held in Malaysia on Myanmar States crimes committed against Rohingyas and other minority groups and she is currently involved in the Session launched in Barcelona last July on migrants and refugee peoples.
is the co-Chairperson urgewald e.V. Ute Koczy has long standing experience in international cooperation and development including human rights politics. She works for global social and ecological transformation. As a former parliamentarian on regional and national level she was involved in the fight against the financing/building of the OCP-Pipeline and the support for the Yasuní-Nationalparc without Oil-Exploitation (ITT), Ecuador. Her focus is resources, conflict regions and gender politics. Urgewald is a German environment und human rights organization, whose mission it to adress the underlying causes of global environmental destruction and poverty (www.urgewald.org). Known for its successful coal divestment campaigns on the Norwegian Government Pension Fund urgewald has created a customizable database for investors and insurers: the „Global Coal Exit List“. Ute Koczy is member of the party Alliance 90/The Greens (Chairperson on the regional level), of the human rights organization Terre des Femmes and locally in the group for the Fairtrade-Town Lemgo
holds a Doctor in Juridical Sociology, Universidad del País Vasco. Ramiro is an Ecuadorian lawyer, Director of the Law Department at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. He is Professor of Law Philosophy and Constitutional Law at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Quito. Ramiro is also a member of the Yasunidos Collective. Nationality: Ecuador
is Executive Director of Planet Pledge, a project of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, where she advances global investment and philanthropic solutions to climate change. Prior to Planet Pledge, she was Executive Director of Earth Law Center, where she advocated for nature’s rights. Ms. Sheehan also ran the California Coastkeeper Alliance and Pacific Region office of Ocean Conservancy. Ms. Sheehan was recognized as a California Coastal Hero by Sunset Magazine and the California Coastal Commission. Ms. Sheehan holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.P.P. from U.C. Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley Law School.
is part of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal’s Secretariat. Natalia is a consultant for Rights of Nature with Pachamama Alliance and is the focal point in Ecuador for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She graduated in Hampshire College, holds a Political Science master’s degree from FLACSO Ecuador and a master’s degree from UASB on Climate Change. She promoted the recognition of Rights for Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution.