Oregon Review of International Law

Third Annual Symposium:
The Confluence of Human Rights and the Environment

Friday, February 20th 2009

Many Nations Longhouse, University of Oregon

Dear Law Students and Faculty, Alumni, and Community Members,

The Oregon Review of International Law is pleased to invite you to our third annual symposium entitled: The Confluence of Human Rights and the Environment . Please join us for an exciting day of scholarship and dialogue in the Many Nations Longhouse. This year's symposium seeks to identify ways in which human rights theory may be relevant to environmental threats faced by civilizations across the globe. We are especially honored to present Justice Velasco, Supreme Court of the Philippines, who recently authored a crucial opinion on the clean up of Manila Bay.

Date: Friday, February 20th, 2009
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Many Nations Longhouse (near the Law School parking lot)

Featuring: Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Supreme Court of the Philippines; Lalanath DeSilva, World Resource Institute; Jennifer Gleason, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide; Professor David Hunter, American University; Professor James R. May, Widener University Law School; Professor George Rock Pring, Sturm College of Law; Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, University of Oregon School of Law; Professor John Bonine, University of Oregon School of Law; Michelle Platt, University of Oregon School of Law.

We hope you will join us. Please RSVP to Kevin Parks, kparks@uoregon.edu

Symposium Schedule

  • 9:00: Breakfast and Coffee

  • 9:05 - 9:30: Welcome and Introduction

    • Kevin Parks, Symposium Editor, ORIL
    • Natalie Duke, Editor-In-Chief, ORIL
    • Margie Paris, Dean, University of Oregon Law School
    • Svitlana Kravchenko, Faculty Advisor, University of Oregon Law School

  • 9:30 - 9:45: Book Launch: "Human Rights and the Environment"

    • Professors John Bonine and Svitlana Kravchenko, University of Oregon Law School

  • 9:45 - 10:15: Student Article: Michelle Platt, University of Oregon

    LA NATURALEZA O PACHAMAMA DE ECUADOR: WHICH DOCTRINE SHOULD GRANT TREES STANDING?

    My paper examines Ecuador's new constitutional provision that grants nature rights and questions how this provision will be asserted in court. Since the contours of nature's standing is unclear in the new constitution, I run through various standing doctrines to try and determine how Ecuador should interpret nature's standing and what procedural mechanisms Ecuador should enforce to best protect the environment.

  • 10:15 - 10:45: Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, University of Oregon School of Law

    IS ACCESS TO ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION A HUMAN RIGHT? WORLDWIDE BEST PRACTICES

    A democracy requires transparency and accountability though open government. I will explore freedom of information provisions in international treaties, constitutions, and domestic information laws of different countries around the world. I will discuss how they apply to environmental information; analyze restrictions and how to interpret and avoid them; and present best cases and practices. Access to information is one of the most fundamental environmental rights.

  • 11:00 - 11:30: Lalanath DeSilva, World Resource Institute

    VOICE AND CHOICE

    Voice and Choice: Opening the Door to Environmental Democracy is a Worls Resources Institute 2008 Report that discusses what environmental democracy means. It lays out human rights and instrumental arguments in favor of access to information, public participation and access to justice (referred to collectively as 'access rights") in environmental matters. The report identifies four barriers to promoting access rights and points to success stories from around the world suggesting how these barriers might be overcome. Additionally, I will share preliminary findings from five recent studies on poverty and access rights as well as some findings from over 90 case studies done as part of the Access Initiatives national assessments.

  • 11:30 - 12:00: Professor James May, Widener School of Law

    JUDICIAL RECEPTIVENESS TO FUNDAMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS PROVISIONS IN NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONS

    A few weeks ago Bolivia joined about 70 other countries that have constitutions embodying a substantive fundamental right to a "clean," "healthful," "quality" or "favorable" environment. Only a handful of these provisions, however, have been subject to judicial review. To what extent have courts enforced these provisions thus far? Are they effective in making actionable a basic human right to a quality environment? What factors help explain these outcomes?

  • 12:00 - 1:00: Lunch Break

  • 1:00 - 2:00: Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Supreme Court of the Philippines

    MANILA BAY- A DAUNTING CHALLENGE IN ENVIRONMENTAL REHABILITATION AND PROTECTION

    Manila Bay, once brimming with marine life, is now a dirty, polluted wide expanse. A suit against government authorities for its clean-up, rehabilitation and protection has been filed and has prospered. Now, the difficult part of implementing the decision in accordance with its letter and spirit and within the time frame there indicated starts. This is the challenge confronting the Court, the environmentalists, the government and the other stakeholders.

  • 2:00 - 2:30: Professor David Hunter, American University School of Law

    HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS OF THE POST-KYOTO CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS

    Mr. Hunter will explore the human rights issues that are being raised in the context of the post-Kyoto climate negotiations, scheduled to be completed in Copenhagen by the end of 2009. Although the implications of climate change for human rights, particularly for the fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights are clear, less evident is how choices made in responding to climate change can also affect human rights. Various proposals relating to emissions targets, adaptation and forest conservation, for example, raise significant concerns for the human rights of the poor and resource-dependent communities. Yet, efforts to integrate human rights concerns into the Kyoto Framework have thus far met with mixed success.

  • 3:00 - 3:30: Jen Gleason & Liz Mitchell, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

    DEFENDING THE DEFENDERS: PROTECTING THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATES

    We will give an overview of international and regional treaties and mechanisms designed to protect public-interest environmental lawyers and citizen advocates from human rights abuses. Undermining the progress that has been made at the international level are examples of domestic laws that directly and indirectly target NGOs and individuals seeking to protect citizens' and communities' rights to live in a healthy environment. We will explore this significant gap though the experiences of lawyers who have been subject to erroneous investigations and criminal charges, and physical violence.

  • 3:30 - 4:00: Professor George 'Rock' Pring, University of Denver School of Law

    SPECIALIZED ENVIRONMENTAL COURTS AND TRIBUNALS AROUND THE WORLD

    The University of Denver Environmental Courts & Tribunals (ECT) Study is conducting a comparative analysis of this promising approach for enhancing human rights and access to environmental justice, in over 35 ECTs worldwide. The goal is to provide guidance on the "building blocks" and "best practices" for countries establishing or reforming ECTs in the future.

  • 4:00 - 4:30: Professor John Bonine, University of Oregon School of Law

    EQUAL ACCESS TO JUSTICE, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND POLITICAL POWER

    No lawsuits, no power. Those who can file lawsuits are often those to whom government officials listen most closely. Usually those with easy access are businesses and corporations. This produces profound imbalances in policy-making. Ordinary citizens and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) face large barriers in trying to hold governments accountable to legal norms through law suits. The legal and financial barriers can be overcome, however, by legislation, constitutional interpretation, and human rights legal theories. Understanding what is possible may spur efforts to make access to justice more equal and therefore liberate civil servants to make decisions that can help protect the environment.

  • 4:30 - 5:00: Group Panel Discussion/Q & A


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