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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in “The Anthropocene”

  • Ellen Hey (a1)
Extract

This essay considers the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) at a time at which humans are dramatically changing the planet, prompting scientists to suggest that we are living in a new geological epoch: “the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene, even if an essentially contested concept, prompts reconsideration of our interhuman socioeconomic relations and our understanding of the human-nature interface, both of which come with significant challenges. This essay suggests that the UDHR offers the space for engaging with these challenges, if we adopt an Anthropocene-relevant reading of its provisions. This essay also argues that such a reading of the UDHR, on its own, is unlikely to lead to the adoption of an Anthropocene-relevant reading of other international instruments, international economic instruments in particular. It points to enhanced regime interaction as a way to address this issue.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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1 Will Steffen et al., The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives, 369 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 842 (2011); Jan Zalasiewicz et al., Petrifying Earth Process: The Strategic Imprint of Key Earth Systems Parameters in the Anthropocene, 34 Theory, Culture & Soc'y 83 (2017).

2 Stockholm Resilience Centre, Planetary Boundaries Research.

3 Stanley C. Finney & Lucy E. Edwards, The “Anthropocene” Epoch: Scientific Decision or Political Statement?, 26 Gsa Today 4 (2015).

5 University of Leicester, Media Note: Anthropocene Working Group (2016); Jan Zalasiewicz et al., Making the Case for a Formal Anthropocene Epoch: An Analysis of Ongoing Critiques, 50(2) Newsl. Stratigraphy 205 (2017); Jan Zalasiewicz et al., The Working Group on the Anthropocene: Summary of Evidence and Interim Recommendations, 19 Anthropocene 55 (2017).

6 Steffen et al., supra note 1, at 849.

7 See, e.g., The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis (Clive Hamilton et al. eds., 2015); Environmental Law and Governance for the Anthropocene (Louis J. Kotzé ed., 2017).

8 Steffen et al., supra note 1.

9 UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Report of the OHCHR on the Relationship Between Climate Change and Human Rights, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/61 (Jan. 15, 2009).

11 Anthony Anghie, International Financial Institutions, in The Politics of International Law 217–37 (Christian Reus-Smit ed., 2004).

12 Carl Folke et al., Social-Ecological Resilience and Biosphere-Based Sustainability Science, 21(3) Ecology & Soc'y 41 (2016).

13 Universal Declaration of Human Rights art. 28, G.A. Res. 217A (III) (Dec. 8, 1948) (emphasis added).

14 See supra notes 911 (and accompanying text). See also Philip Alston, The Populist Challenge to Human Rights, 9 J. Hum. Rts. Prac. 1 (2017).

15 Ellen Hey, International Law and the Anthropocene, 5(10) Esil Reflection (2016).

16 John Ruggie (Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/8/5 (Apr. 7, 2008).

17 See Regime Interaction in International Law (Margaret Young ed., 2012).

20 UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Annual Reports-Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (2018).

21 UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Mapping Report, UN Doc. A/HRC/25/53 (Mar. 2014).

22 Daniel Magraw et al., Human Rights, Labour and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, 46 Envtl. Pol'y & L. 313 (2016).

23 See Ellen Hey & Federica Violi, The Hard Work of Regime Interaction: Climate Change and Human Rights, Report for the Royal Netherlands Society of International Law (KVNIR), in Climate Change: Options and Duties Under International Law, Preadviezen No. 145 at 1 (2018).

24 See sources listed supra note 4.

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