What is it about?

This paper delves into the critical role of biosphere defenders for achieving international biodiversity law targets and realizing the right to a healthy environment. First, it examines overlapping human rights law and biodiversity law State’s obligations that are useful for delineating the content of the right to a healthy environment. Second, the article recognizes the importance of legal advances but argues that these legal advances are not sufficient and need to be combined with understanding the dynamics that facilitate or frustrate in practice biosphere defenders’ efforts to untap the transformative potential of the right to a healthy environment. Finally, the article highlights how these defenders, including women, youth, indigenous peoples, and local communities, use the law combined with other strategies to trigger societal change. Their work in the legal field helps influence value systems, regulations, and financial institutions.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Earth, our beautiful planet, is like a grand puzzle with countless interconnected pieces. Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are vital parts of this puzzle. These pieces are the life support systems that sustain us all, from the smallest insect to the variety of ecosystems such as lakes, forests, deserts and the myriad of interactions between human, plant and animals. But here's the catch: the puzzle is falling apart. If we don't do something fast, staying within safe planetary boundaries will become impossible. To address this existential challenge, the article emphasizes the need to recognize and support the agency of groups in vulnerable situations in safeguarding nature. It challenges the perception of them as passive victims. Furthermore, it discusses several cases from around the world, illustrating the concrete possibilities of societal action for change translating values of biodiversity and ecosystems into actionable evidence in judicial decision-making. It also calls for further research using the biosphere defender concept proposed in the article and fostering coordination across jurisdictions and actors for sustainability transformations. Ultimately, biosphere defenders have a critical role to play in confronting the pressing biodiversity and climate crises and safeguarding the Earth’s intertwined puzzle -the home of all living beings.


What motivated me to write this paper is to show that environmental defenders are not only interested in highlighting the climate change problem but also proposing solutions to safeguard the interwoven network of life on Earth -the biosphere. I hope this article makes people question a common assumption that all environmental defenders are loudly protesting in the streets to demand climate action. I am also keen to put a spotlight on the innovative work by women and youth who may not be getting the same media attention as defenders protesting in the streets yet their silent work in the legal field -from developing legal arguments to gathering pollution evidence to bring to courts- is critical and complementary to those peacefully making their voice heard in public manifestations.

Claudia Ituarte-Lima
Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Biosphere Defenders Leveraging the Human Right to Healthy Environment for Transformative Change, Environmental Policy and Law, July 2023, IOS Press,
DOI: 10.3233/epl-239003.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page