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Bamboo Forest, China (Courtesy of Kelly Dorkenoo)

Rights of Nature Law and Policy

The law has seen the beginning of an evolution toward recognition of the inherent rights of Nature to exist, thrive and evolve. This evolving legal approach acknowledges that the traditional environmental regulatory systems generally described herein regard nature as property to be used for human benefit, rather than a rights-bearing partner with which humanity has co-evolved. Rights of Nature is grounded in the recognition that humankind and Nature share a fundamental, non-anthropocentric relationship given our shared existence on this planet, and it creates guidance for actions that respect this relationship. Legal provisions recognizing the Rights of Nature, sometimes referred to as Earth Jurisprudence, include constitutions, national statutes, and local laws. In addition, new policies, guidelines and resolutions are increasingly pointing to the need for a legal approach that recognizes the rights of the Earth to well-being.

Member States





  • Legal Case
    T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs. Union of India & Others
  • T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs. Union of India & Others (2012) is known for the opinions of Judges K.S. Radhakrishnan and Chandramauli Kr. Prasad who asserted that Environmental Justice could be achieved only if we drift away from anthropocentric principles. Relevant section (Para.14) is highlighted in the document.


1New Zealand
  • Te Urewera
    Te Urewera Act
  • Te Urewera, named a national park in 1954 became Te Urewera on 27 July 2014: "a legal entity" with "all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person" (section 11 (1)). Te Urewera is managed by the new Te Urewera Board responsible "to act on behalf of, and in the name of, Te Urewera" (s 17(a)).

  • Official Agreement
    Aotearoa, Whanganui River
  • National Law
    Resource Management Act (p.44)

1United States


  • At the IUCN World Conservation Congress (Hawaii, United States of America, 1-10 September 2016) two resolutions addressing rights of nature were adopted. Resolution on Crimes against the Environment (Res. 078) and Resolution on Humanity's right to a healthy environment (Res.089)

    Resolution 078 notes "that the Earth Charter calls for a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace, and that IUCN Resolution 5.100 Incorporation of the Rights of Nature as the organizational focal point in IUCN's decision making (Jeju, 2012), calls for consideration of the Rights of Nature as a "fundamental and absolute key element" in all areas of IUCN intervention and decision making, and invites development of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature. Full text available in French and Spanish

    Resolution 089 invites "States and all stakeholders in the international community to support the adoption of international and regional declarations and conventions that contribute to the recognition of the rights of humanity and all living beings to the environment and the rights of nature". Full text available in French and Spanish.

    The rights of nature are also an integral part of the IUCN Programme 2017~2020 (see pages 15, 26 & 35).

  • At the IUCN World Conservation Congress (Jeju, South Korea, 6-15 September 2012), Resolution on the Rights of Nature (WCC-2012-Res-100) was adopted. Also available in French and Spanish.

G77 + China


UN Forum on Forests (UNFF)