Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment

Edited by Anna Grear and Louis J. Kotzé

Bringing together leading international scholars in the field, this Research Handbook interrogates, from various angles and positions, the fractious relationship between human rights and the environment and between human rights and environmental law. The Handbook provides researchers and students with a fertile source of reflection and engagement with this most important of contemporary legal relationships. Law’s complex role in the mediation of the relationship between humanity and the living order is richly reflected in this timely and authoritative collection.
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Chapter 21: Human rights, environmental justice, and the North-South divide

Carmen G. Gonzalez


From the Ogoni people devastated by oil drilling in Nigeria to the Inuit and other indigenous populations threatened by climate change, communities disparately burdened by environmental degradation are increasingly framing their demands for environmental justice in the language of environmental human rights. However, some scholars have expressed scepticism about the environmental human rights project. First, they remind us that the human rights governance capacity of many states in the global South has been compromised by the neoliberal economic reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as by trade and investment agreements. Second, they question the ability of human rights law to adequately articulate and advance the aspirations and resistance strategies of diverse grassroots social justice movements, and warn us about the susceptibility of human rights law to co-optation by powerful Northern states. This Chapter examines the promise and the peril of environmental human rights as a means of challenging environmental injustice within nations and the North-South dimension of environmental injustice.

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