Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International
The Women's Earth & Climate Action Network is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. For Our Earth and Future Generations A project of Women's Earth and Climate Caucus and its partner eraGlobal Alliance

Rights of Nature Advocacy

Photo by Emily Arasim

Rights of Nature is based on the recognition and honoring of the Earth’s fundamental and inviolable right to exist, live, thrive, evolve and regenerate.

The majority of the world’s legal frameworks treat nature as property, meaning that life-giving rivers, forests and mountains are seen as objects to be sold and consumed. Legal systems built on the premise of Rights of Nature challenge the idea that natural communities and ecosystems are property to be exploited endlessly by humans, and instead recognizes the Earth as a living, rights-bearing entity.  

Environmental and social justice advocates have long been seeking a tool which would enable communities affected by climate change and environmental degradation to gain recognition for the harms done not just to human interests, but also to ecologic ones. A Rights of Nature framework requires that those responsible, including corporate and governmental actors, be held fully accountable for negative impacts on Earth systems.

Rights of Nature have been formally included in the Constitution of Ecuador and in nationwide laws in Bolivia, and have been adopted in local ordinances successfully in diverse communities across the U.S.

Rights of Nature defines the relationship of humankind and nature as interdependent, and allow us to express our deep respect and care for our Earth in modern structures of law. It is a framework that can, in part, help to restore the ancient and life-sustaining concepts that have been obscured by dominant and exploitative social, political, legal and economic structures.

Within the Rights of Nature framework, WECAN is advocating for an Earth-respecting cultural narrative, one of “restore, respect, replenish” to replace the narrative of “domination, depletion and destruction” of Nature and our diverse communities. 

WECAN Rights of Nature Advocacy & Trainings

For five years, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has carried forth the Rights of Nature framework through diverse advocacy efforts and online and on-the-ground trainings and workshops. WECAN delegations have advocated for Rights of Nature inside and outside of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP negotiations in   Durbin, Warsaw, Lima and Paris.    

WECAN Regional Climate Solutions Trainings in the DR Congo, Middle East/North Africa and Latin American hold Rights of Nature as a key pillar of the curriculum.The WECAN U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative presented the first online ‘Rights of Nature and Community Rights: Protecting and Defending the Places We Live’ training in 2015, and will hold another session in 2016 and into the future.

WECAN additionally serves on the Steering Committee for the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance in San Francisco, California.

Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director, representing the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature) leads a workshop on Rights of Nature at the Climate Action Zone in Paris during COP21 

Areas of focus:

  • History of Rights of Nature
  • Respecting and learning from Indigenous Peoples wisdom about living in harmony with Nature
  • International movement for Rights of Nature and challenging current environmental laws and climate policies
  • Tools for developing local Rights of Nature ordinances
  • Connecting Rights of Nature with Indigenous, human and women’s rights
  • Rights of Nature as a tool for building new economic structures and alternatives to market-based climate solutions
  • What would Rights of Nature look like in your community? – planning and strategizing for action
  • Support organizations and programs that work with schools, both public and private, to educate children on their interdependent, interconnected relationships with nature - Create an Earth or nature literacy curriculum that demonstrates immersion into a “sense of place” - Establish field trips and immersion experiences for children and adults to explore and enhance their experience of the awe and wonder of the natural world

Learn about recent initiatives:

  • Rights of Nature and Human Rights Roundtable at Place To B and the Climate Action Zone during COP21 Climate Negotiations in Paris 2015

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women in Ecuador, speaks at a WECAN event in NYC, 2014

Collaboration with the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people of Brazil testifies in front of the panel of judges at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris, December 2015

WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, serves as Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and has worked extensively within the Alliance to organize and present Rights of Nature Tribunals and other events and actions. WECAN serves on the Steering Committee for the International Rights of Nature Tribunals.

The Rights of Nature Tribunal is a unique, citizen-created initiative that gives people from all around the world the opportunity to testify publicly on destruction of the Earth and their communities.

Tribunals feature internationally renowned lawyers and leaders for planetary justice, who hear cases addressing issues such as climate change, GMOs, fracking, mega-dams and violence against defenders of the land, offering judgments and recommendations for reparation, mitigation, restoration and prevention of further damages and harmbased on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Tribunals give voice to violations of the Earth’s rights, and provide a platform for envisioning, planning and implementing an alternative legal framework for living in harmony with the Earth.

Learn about recent initiatives:

Judges at the 2015 International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris


  • Rights of Nature COP21 Press Conference– December 2015
  • Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International) and Pablo Solon (Fundacion Solon) present a Rights of Nature press conference inside COP21

    • Rights of Nature Tribunal, Quito, Ecuador – January 2014


    Members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature celebrate the publication of a book on Rights of Nature in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations