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Greetings for 2016! Here is a round-up of some recent Earth law developments.

By Tom Brenan

  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has released its judgment in the case of Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v Suriname, nine years after the case was first submitted by Chiefs of the eight Kaliña and Lokon villages of the Lower Marowijne River and Association of Village Leaders in Suriname. The Court found Suriname responsible for violations of the American Convention on Human Rights due to the failure to recognise and guarantee legal personality and territorial rights of the Kaliña and Lokono as well as breaches of these and other rights in connection with bauxite mining, grants of individual titles to non-indigenous persons and restrictions imposed in two nature reserves. It gave orders with deadlines to comply. The Court said that ‘respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples may have a positive impact on environmental conservation’ and that ‘the rights of the indigenous peoples and international environmental laws should be understood as complementary’.
  • The Green Party of England and Wales has become the first UK-wide political party to vote Rights of Nature into their policies. This follows an overwhelming vote in favour at the party’s spring conference on 28th February. The Scottish Green Party introduced a Rights of Nature policy at their autumn conference in 2015. The vote for Rights of Nature builds on the Green Party’s current commitment to support the development of an international law of ecocide.
  • The Center for Earth Jurisprudence will hold the third in its Protecting our Common Home webinar series on 16th March. The focus will be “Florida Constitutional Revision Committee and a ‘Community Rights’ Amendment Protecting Human and Ecological Health”.

  • On the 22nd December 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to initiate a virtual dialogue in 2016 on Harmony with Nature amongst worldwide experts on Earth Jurisprudence and others. This is to inspire citizens and societies to reconsider how they interact with the natural world in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals on Harmony with Nature. It follows the report last year, highlighted in an earlier mailing, which featured a section on customary law and governance which profiled work on Earth Jurisprudence by the Gaia Foundation and its partners. A summary of the virtual dialogue is to be submitted to the General Assembly’s 71st session.
  • The first Ecocide case to be prosecuted in Guatemala’s environmental crimes court (which opened in July 2015) has had its interim hearing upheld by the Court of Appeal. The African palm oil corporation Empresa Reforestadora de Palma de Petén SA has been charged with criminal ecocide that has devastated fish and other wildlife in and around La Pasión River, severely diminishing the lives of tens of thousands of Guatemalans living in the region. This is thought to have resulted from chemical run-off following heavy rains. The company has been ordered to suspend operations for six months at the Sayaché palm plant in Petén pending investigation.
  • The Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) has launched a webinar series “Protecting our Common Home” to explore emergent legal systems and cultural themes, addressing the growing Rights of Nature movement. The next session will be in February.
  • The CEJ and the Barry University School of Law invite the submission of papers addressing the theme “Earth Jurisprudence: The Time is Now” by 15th February. The winning submission will be published in the June 2016 edition of the Environmental and Earth Law Journal. While the invitation calls for ‘scholarly legal papers’, they would welcome reflections/stories on Earth Jurisprudence/Rights of Nature from experiential, indigenous or restorative justice perspectives as well.