Towards a UN Declaration of Rights of Nature Webinar

Towards a UN Declaration of Rights of Nature: Bridging Ethical Sustainability and Nature Rights – Connections & Key Outcomes

By Fransizka Marie Benz

On the 14th of September 2022, Earth Charter International and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) jointly organised a webinar on the topic of “Towards a UN Declaration of Rights of Nature: Bridging Ethical Sustainability and Nature Rights”. The webinar provided space to discuss and address the role of ethical sustainability and linkages in the process toward a UN Declaration of Rights and Mother Nature. The webinar outlined that the bridge between ethical sustainability and Nature Rights, both fundamental components of the UN Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth, can only be built in relation

As stated in Earth Charter Principle 16f, it is crucial to “recognise that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part».

The webinar highlighted that the Earth Charter,  as a vision of hope and a call to action, is an indispensable ethical framework for a process of reconciliation. The discussion has shown that a UN Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth is an essential step as part of the process of reconnection. During the webinar, much attention has been drawn to the role of ethics and ethical frameworks, such as the Earth Charter, that are needed to navigate this process.

The webinar was opened by Mirian Vilela, who outlined the Earth Charter’s vision to support moving beyond an anthropocentric to a more life-centric approach. Moreover, she highlighted the pillar of ecological integrity and the notion of peace crucial to turning conscience into action. 

The panellists Cormac Cullinan (Wild Law &GARN), Kathryn Gwiazdon (Center for Environmental Ethics and Law) and Natalia Greene (GARN) addressed the outcomes of Stockholm+50 of responsibility, interconnectivity and implementing opportunities that are intertwined in the Earth Charter and the Rights of Mother Earth Movement.

The panel discussion demonstrated that global efforts of (re)connection, in particular a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth,  build a necessary step to bridge and expand worldviews to decolonise systems. Specifically required is a change of the Western worldview built on the assumption that nature is a resource. As one of the panelists outlined, a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth is a crucial step to transform the ongoing sustaining of development. Rights of Nature address and challenge the human-centred paradigm that needs to be rebuilt and reconstructed to solve global crises.

Cormac Cullinan offered a good metaphor to understand the importance of the recognizing the rights of nature in our current legal systems: “It is as if one leaf of a tree is claiming that it has rights, disregarding the rest of the tree, of which the leaf depends on”.  We, humans, are that leaf, and we have been blind to see that with the rest of the community of life, we can’t survive, that is why, all members of the community of life (nature) have rights.

During the panel discussion, the participants discussed the roots and purpose of a UN Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, the importance and process of bridging ethical sustainability and the recognition of Nature Rights, including the importance of a call to action to take on the responsibility to create a flourishing future. 

Panellists pointed out that it is not about granting nature rights but recognising the rights. As highlighted during the discussion, the Rights of Nature already exist. Indigenous Peoples live this worldview, and a UN Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is a step in reconnecting to the nature-based worldview and understanding what has been forgotten and disconnected within colonialism: we humans are part of nature. It is crucial to building further spaces where bridges between worldviews can be built, engagement with Indigenous Peoples can take place, and the acknowledgement of their wisdom can be seen and honoured in relation.

“The Earth Charter is a beautiful document which can be used with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth to assist us in re-learning how to co-exist in harmony within Nature”, affirmed Cormac Cullinan.

Ethical Frameworks, such as the Earth Charter, are crucial to an egalitarian peace-based approach to finding navigation to build upon the strengths of diversity and to understand that identity is our power and doorway to peace. The webinar initiated a dialogue about how the Earth Charter can serve as an articulation for the Rights of Nature and a UN Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Watch here the full recording of this webinar: