Legal Personality for Nature

Project Details


Granting rights to the natural environment has, in the past decade, gained more acceptance in environmental advocacy. There are now several cases, ranging from the constitutional to the municipal level, of nature receiving some form of rights. It is therefore becoming possible to systematise the extant cases along different characteristics and to use these to build better theoretical models for granting nature rights.

New Zealand is the latest country to grant rights to nature, namely to a river (Whanganui) and to a former national park (Te Urewera). The ways in which these rights have come about are substantially different from other cases (Ecuador, Bolivia, India, the United States) and would therefore deserve closer scrutiny in order to advance the theory and practice of rights for nature. This project proposes to study the New Zealand cases in order to understand whether they represent a new direction in
the movement for granting nature rights, as well as how they have so far worked in practice. The New Zealand cases offer excellent examples of a minimalist approach to the rights of nature (only granting legal personality, without any positive rights) and of a use of the mechanism of rights for incentivising political deliberation. This project will extract the best practices from New Zealand and bring them into conversation with the wider movement for rights of nature.
Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/19


  • Legal personality

Flemish discipline codes

  • Human rights law