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Environmental human rights as a battlefield: a grammar of political confrontation

Gabriel Blouin Genest and Sylvie Paquerot

Keywords: environmental human rights; political confrontation; battlefield; international order; social relations; legitimacy

To understand the role and scope of human rights in contemporary environmental debates, we believe it is more useful to focus on the actions of stakeholders rather than on the origin, nature or foundations of human rights. In order to develop such an account, we examine human rights in terms of a battlefield, a political space undergoing constant transformation and in which political conflict is expressed by continuous translation between networks of interactions. This process of translation, in turn, modifies the scope and understanding of environmental human rights. We then show, as an example, that the global debate on the human right to water, which developed at the beginning of the millennium, can be analysed in these terms. This is followed by an exploration of the specific areas of political confrontations that environmental human rights potentially open up, especially through Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We conclude by identifying the necessary ambivalence surrounding the interpretation of human rights, understood as a battlefield.

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