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Environmental Defenders – Current Practice and Challenges


The Institute for Law & Governance cordially invites you to our upcoming conference:


“Environmental Defenders – Current Practice and Challenges”

When: Friday, 20.01.2023 – Save the date!

Where: Vienna, WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business)


Conference Abstract:

According to the United Nations, environmental defenders are persons “defending environmental rights, including constitutional rights to a clean and healthy environment”. Environmental Defenders play a crucial role in the global fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis. However, harassment and even threats against environmental defenders present an issue of growing concern across the globe. This has led to new regulatory initiatives, such as the European Commission’s proposal for an Anti-SLAPP-Directive or the establishment of a “Rapid Response Mechanism for Environmental Defenders” under the Aarhus Convention. Our conference takes these developments as a point of departure to reflect on the multifaceted role the law plays for defending environmental rights. Our panelist will present legal-doctrinal analyses of the relevant legal framework as well as socio-legal perspectives on environmental defenders and their perception of the law. Overall, we aim to contribute to future legal developments in the field and to a better understanding of the impact and social functions of law.


In four thematic panels academics, international experts and environmental defenders will discuss

  • the experiences of environmental defenders on the global, European and local level
  • international instruments designed to protect environmental defenders
  • Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs)
  • the contested issue of civil disobedience from a multi-disciplinary perspective.


Speakers include: Zsuzsanna Belenyessy, Legal Officer, Directorate-General for the Environment, European Commission // Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur for Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention // Summer Kern, Justice & Environment // Pablo Peña Alegría, Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies // Ingeborg Zerbes, University of Vienna.


Please find the conference programme here.


Vienna University of Economics and Business
Institute for Law & Governance, Vienna University of Economics and Business
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