I have just come back from the 20th session of the UNFCCC, which was held in Lima, Peru. I participated in, or organized, a whole bunch of events focusing on the various intersections between human rights and climate change. A particular highlight was an official UNFCCC side-event that I helped organize on public participation and climate governance. After a series of brief opening interventions from a variety of speakers, we broke out into discussion groups. I led a break-out group on the benefits of public participation for climate governance. I was quite pleased that our event on public participation was… participatory. This is a rarity in official UNFCCC side-events, which tend to feature large panels communicating knowledge in a uni-directional manner.
I was quoted in an article in The Gazette today on the continuing fall-out relating to last week’s court order suspending exploratory work by TransCanada to build a petroleum port in Cacouna, on the Saint Lawrence River. I pointed out that this episode reflects the failure of successive Quebec governments to enforce environmental laws in this province. The article can be found here.
Over the past year, I served on the organising commitee of the 3rd Yale/UNITAR Conference on Environmental Governance & Democracy, which was held during the weekend of 5-7 September 2014 in New Haven, Connecticut. The conference brought together over 150 scholars, policy-makers, activists, and practitioners to discuss the role and contributions of human rights to environmental sustainability, the post-2015 development goals, and the future climate regime. I had the pleasure of moderating two panels at the conference on topics that fall within my research interests, namely the role of constitutional environmental rights in environmental law and policy and the relationship between human rights and climate governance. I also served on the closing panel for the conference and provided an overview of follow-up actions and lines of inquiry. The webpage for the conference can be found here and a brief summary prepared by IISD on the first day of the conference can be found here.
I am really excited and truly humbled to have just begun an appointment as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University. Click here for the announcement of my appointment.
I have just published an article that draws on the relational theory of procedural justice in social psychology to explain whether and how rights-based approaches can enhance levels of legitimacy and cooperation in conservation initiatives in the September 2014 edition of the Human Rights Review. Here is the abstract:
Rights-based approaches (RBAs) are increasingly gaining favour among practitioners in the field of natural resource conservation and management. RBAs are a non-binding operational framework through which conservation actors can integrate human rights standards and principles into the design, planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of projects and programmes. In addition to promoting the human rights of local populations, it is also argued that RBAs may hold benefits for conservation initiatives. This article draws on existing research on the social psychology of procedural fairness to develop a relational account of how and whether RBAs may enhance levels of legitimacy and cooperation in conservation. This relational account stresses the importance of fair experiences for generating positive feelings of legitimacy and associated cooperative behaviour among individuals interacting with organisations or authorities. On the whole, this article suggests that if RBAs can ensure respect for the human rights of local populations, they have the potential to engender fair experiences and related positive institutional effects, thereby significantly strengthening the overall effectiveness of conservation initiatives.
I recently organized and moderated a one-day workshop on “Rights, Governance & Climate Change” as a parallel event to the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland. The workshop was jointly hosted by the Governance, Environment & Markets Initiative at Yale University (GEM) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in collaboration with the Faculty of Law and Administration of the University of Warsaw and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL). The workshop convened over 50 scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, and stakeholders from a variety of fields and disciplines to examine how substantive and procedural rights can be used to support, design, and implement effective and equitable solutions to address climate change and related challenges at multiple levels of governance. The report posted here provides a brief overview of the discussions held during the workshop and outlines related outcomes and initiatives.
Along with Katherine Lofts, I have co-edited a new legal reference guide on the relationship between economic, social, and cultural rights and climate change released by the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, Academics Stand against Poverty Network, and the Governance, Environment & Markets Initiative at Yale University.
The guide seeks to provide policy-makers, advocates, and experts with basic knowledge of obligations and principles related to international economic, social, and cultural rights, along with concrete examples of their relevance to climate change-related policy-making. It thus aims to ensure that governments continue to meet their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill economic, social, and cultural rights in the context of new challenges brought by climate change, as well as to highlight opportunities for policy-makers worldwide.
The guide can be downloaded here.
Along with Sean Stephenson, I co-edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Poverty Law on legal empowerment of the poor in the context of sustainable development. The special issue provides a range of perspectives that address the nature, potential, and limitations of legal empowerment initiatives in the context of sustainable development. The entire special issue is available for free at: http://www.povertylaw.ca/
I have co-edited a new book with Cambridge University Press on the relationship between two important and dynamic fields of international law: international criminal justice and sustainable development. Here is the synopsis:
Comprised of chapters written by leading academics and international lawyers, this book examines how the principles and practices of international criminal law and sustainable development can contribute to one another’s elaboration, interpretation, and implementation. Chapters in the book discuss the potential and limitations of international criminalization as a means for protecting the basic foundations of sustainable development; the role of existing international crimes in penalizing serious forms of economic, social, environmental, and cultural harm; the indirect linkages that have developed between sustainable development and various mechanisms of criminal accountability and redress; and innovative proposals to broaden the scope of international criminal justice. With its rigorous and innovative arguments, this book forms a unique and urgent contribution to current debates on the future of global justice and sustainability.