Rights of nature and rivers in Ecuador’s Constitutional Court

Mihnea Tănăsescu, Elizabeth Macpherson, David Jefferson, Julia Torres Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article analyses a series of decisions by the Constitutional Court of Ecuador on the rights of nature generally, and the rights of rivers and water bodies specifically. The selected cases are a representative sample of other similar ones and allow for uncovering the logic behind the Court's reasoning in general. The analysis focuses on four major themes. First, the importance of context in discussions of the rights of nature and water is demonstrated through the grounding of the analysis in the specific Ecuadorian context, and highlighting the value of this approach. Second, it engages with the concept of judicial activism, thus bringing a much-needed discussion to the wider literature on water and nature rights. Third, it details the concept of nature that is used in the Court's reasoning. Lastly, it traces the relationship between human rights and the rights of nature, specifically through a discussion of the relative importance of Indigenous law in establishing rights of nature jurisprudence in Ecuador. Perhaps surprisingly, given the general thrust of the literature so far, it shows that Indigenous law has been minimally important in this case. In engaging with these themes, the paper lays a fruitful basis for future comparative research that can bring more clarity and nuance to discussions of the rights of nature elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Ecuadorian Constitution
  • Ecuadorian Constitutional Court
  • human rights
  • judicial activism
  • legal personality
  • Rights of nature
  • river rights


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