Integrating the ocean in UNEP’s inaugural Winter/Summer School on Human Rights and the Environment

The Hub contributed to the inaugural Summer/Winter School on Human Rights and the Environment organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment on 21 -25 June 2021 under theme “Critical Perspectives in Human Rights and the Environment.” Hub research by Dylan McGarry and Taryn Pereira, Rhodes University, South Africa, and Elisa Morgera, Hub Director, contributed to three sessions: environmental human rights defenders at the time of the pandemicparticipation as resistance, and human rights in the marine environment. As a follow-up, the Hub will collaborate with the School organizers to consolidate the network between academics and activists arising from the School, as well as to maximize the potential of developing online capacity-building resources building on the School contents.

The substantive contributions made by the Hub during the Summer School have been summarized here.

The Hub’s Empatheatre play “Lalela uLwandle” (which means “Listen to the Sea” in isiZulu) – a research-based theatre project that makes visible stories of those living with the ocean that are seldom seen or heard in the public domain – was discussed as a way to:

  • build the capacity of experts and decision-makers to “see” the needs of, and “really listen,” to indigenous and local knowledge holders, as well as other communities negative impacted by decisions on the ocean, through consultation processes and impact assessments that are often ineffective in ensuring genuine public participation and sustainable decisions;
  • enable open dialogues on multiple and contrasting community needs, including ocean-related intangible heritage and customary norms, as well as the history of multiple injustices experienced by coastal communities;
  • including the views of targeted audiences (public authorities with different levels of power, experts from different disciplines, different stakeholders and activists) into research and action on sustainable and inclusive decisions on the ocean.

The Coastal Justice Network in South Africa, supported by the One Ocean Hub, was discussed as an example of the need to:

  • build resilient networks of experts to support communities in tackling strategically their multiple needs to engage with public authorities and private developers to defend their livelihoods, culture and contributions to a healthy ocean,
  • better understand the need and provide diverse support to environmental human rights defenders, and
  • support communities in effectively participating in decision-making processes during the pandemic, where consultations migrated online without sufficient consideration for new barriers to participation and were held within tighter timeframes.

Finally, the Hub’s research on human rights and the marine environment was discussed for its contributions to:

  • fully explore the role of human rights to address the multiple environmental and social justice dimensions of ocean plastics (see here and here);
  • ensure a coherent approach to the inter-sections human rights and a healthy ocean, including indigenous peoples’ rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, small-scale fishers’ human rights and everyone’s right to human health;
  • investigate the potential of the human right to science to prioritize advances in ocean science (in relation to the functional integrity of ocean ecosystems, ecological connectivity in the ocean and the inter-dependence of life in the ocean and on land); and
  • engaging other disciplines (marine and social sciences and arts) in connecting research and action on human rights and the marine environment with ecosystem services, environmental justice and transformative approaches to sustainable and inclusive decision-making.

 The recordings of the three sessions that the Hub has contributed to are now available:

environmental human rights defenders at the time of the pandemic

participation as resistance

marine environment, marine litter and human rights