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  • Writer's pictureSusan Shaw

UN Harmony with Nature - Ninth Interactive Dialogue, NYC 22 April 2019

Living Law was privileged to be amongst the invited participants to this year's "9th Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature", held at the UN Trusteeship Council in New York on 22 April 2019. This year, the theme of the dialogue was "Mother Earth Approach in the Implementation of Education and Climate Change".

The Interactive Dialogue was held pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/73/235 to discuss the contributions of Harmony with Nature in ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts and to inspire citizens and societies to reconsider how they interact with the natural world in the context of sustainable development, poverty eradication and climate justice, so as to ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in Harmony with Nature.

A/RES/73/235, in its operative paragraph 3, invites States to promote a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development through Harmony with Nature.

The event brought together leading experts from across the world who are active in the field of Nature Rights, Environmental Rights and, more broadly, Sustainable Development. For example, Valérie Cabanes, of France; Gabriela Eslava, a Lawyer from the NGO Dejusticia in Colombia which brought and won the landmark case before the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia recognising the rights of the Amazon. In that case, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the protection of the Colombian Amazon from deforestation, ruling in favour of a group of 25 children and youth, who with the support of Dejusticia, sued the Colombian government for failing to protect their rights to life and a healthy environment.

Presentations were also received from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Dr David R. Boyd, as well as the Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin.

Further details of the list of panel speakers, together with the Dialogue documents, presentations, as well as intervention statements, can now be found online via the official UN Harmony with Nature website.

It should be noted that the aforementioned resolution (A/RES/73/235), amongst others also:

1. Encourages the experts of the Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network to carry out a study of local and national initiatives on the protection of Mother Earth, as applicable. 2. Recognises that protecting ecosystems and avoiding harmful practices against animals, plants, microorganisms and non-living environments contributes to the co-existence of humankind in Harmony with Nature.

As a Legal Expert member of the UN Harmony with Nature Network, Living Law will continue to advocate and support for this work to be taken forward in collaboration with others. Indeed, this has included only last week relaying these developments to the IUCN National Committee meeting in the UK, as well as participating in an event at the Swedish Riksdag, where a formal amendment to the Constitution is being proposed by, amongst others, the Green Party there.

The proposed constitutional amendment provides:-

Ҥ 26.Nature, including ecosystems, populations and species, shall be guaranteed the following rights and freedoms:

1. The right to exist, flourish, regenerate, evolve and restore; and

2. The freedom to exercise, enforce & defend these rights and freedoms."

These developments illustrate the power of creative and innovative legal thinking to address and respond to some of the most pressing challenges of our generation and thereby assist Governments to fulfil their existing legal obligations in the environmental and human rights fields, towards achieving Harmony with Nature.

Following the recent launch of the 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - highlighting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss - the compelling scientific evidence of the need for such transformative shifts could not be clearer.

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