Social and legal aspects of the environment

This course is part of the programme
Master’s study programme Environment (second cycle)

Objectives and competences

The complexity of the human-environment relationship and its cultural, social, political and legal dimension will be at the core of the course. The course will explore the genesis of the environmental knowledge from the perspective of the environmental anthropology , environmental philosophy and ethics.
This module will also provide a legal reference point for students, which will be useful both for present study and future practice. For example, they will become familiar with the nomination process for World Heritage inscription; will know what the limits of the law are with respect to cultural heritage protection; and will be able to assess the possibilities of human rights and other legal frameworks.


No prerequisites are required.


  1. Introduction
    • Aims and purpose of the module
    • Syllabus presentation
    • Student assessment
    • Bibliography and suggested sources

  2. Humans and their Environment :
    • Overview on contradictions and dilemmas in late capitalism
    • Growing attention to environmental justice, equity and fairness
    • Health and Environment- growing social attention

  3. Concepts and their extension:
    • Environmentalism and Ecology and their discourse- Urban ecology, Landscape-Cultural landscape, Climate Change, Pollution, Green buildings, Energy and Environment, Biodiversity, Sustainability, etc.
    • Sustainability and environmental policies (from scientific-technological knowledge to public attention, population –environment debate on resource conflict)
    • Environmental concern and place making (landscape as new design paradigm, green urbanism and architecture, Cities and nature-Urban ecology, conservation and restoration (conservation, recycling, upcycling etc.)

  4. Main international instruments for environmental protection I
    • Protected areas in international law
    • 1972 World Heritage Convention
    • Implementation, monitoring and compliance with 1972 Convention
    • Whose heritage? Communities, the state and the general interest of humanity as a whole
    • How world heritage status affects international and domestic law
    • The relationship between the WHC and other environmental treaties

  5. Main international instruments for environmental protection II
    • UN Declaration on the Human Environment (Stockholm 1972)
    • UN Declaration on Environment and Development (1992)
    • Aarhus Convention 1998
    • Marine and freshwater conservation
    • The regime for protecting Antarctica

  6. Environmental protection and human rights law
    • Nature and scope of environmental rights in international law
    • Environment in international human rights courts
    • Regional human rights treaties
    • The promises and limits of human rights for environmental protection
    • Environmental rights in other international fora (investor tribunals)

  7. Environment in the European context
    • EU Law and Environmental Impact Assessment
    • Natura 2000 and protected areas
    • European Landscape Convention and role of Council of Europe
    • Access to information, public participation and access to justice
    • Contentious cases an national level in Europe

  8. Environment, landscape and commons
    • Shifting conceptual boundaries of property and landscape
    • Forms of property and forms of goods (public, private, co- ownership, commons) and effective management of environment and heritage
    • Actors and stakeholders: owners, users, individuals, communities
    • New technologies, intellectual property, copyright and creative commons
    • Emerging calls for landscape rights and landscape democracy

  9. Contemporary challenges in social and legal aspects of the environment
    • Democratisation of environmental protection in practice
    • Public interest litigation
    • An international criminal court for the environment?
    • Environmental governance and the culture-nature dichotomy
    • Expanding the precautionary principle and enlightened judicial approaches

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this module, the students will have an understanding of the role of law (especially international law) in the protection of environmental heritage and the environment. They will understand the legal context of their field of work and will be able to draw on what is relevant for their own research and/or practice.


At the end of course, the students must submit a written assignment on a topic provided by the lecturer (from a choice of three). They may choose between a practical and theoretical topic but the assignment must involve substantial personal research effort and reflection.

Lecturer's references

Saša Dobričič is founding director of the doctoral programme in Economics and Techniques for the Conservation of Architectural and Environmental Heritage, which has been jointly established by the University of Nova Gorica and University IUAV of Venice. She is vice president of the UNISCAPE (European Network of Universities for the Implementation of the European Landscape Convention) and IAES (International Academy for Environmental Sciences) scientific committee member. Her research interests and contributions are related to the interpretation of urban phenomena in relation to landscape, heritage and environment. She has promoted several international meetings and initiatives within her research field : in 2010, Creative Cities, which historic urban landscape? In 2012, Common Goods: out of property which rights for users? In 2013 The ‘New Urban World’.Future Challenge and Response’ of Urban Systems in Motion, organised in collaboration with JPI Urban Europe.

Amy Strecker is a full researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden. She obtained her PhD in international law from the European University Institute, Florence, in 2012. Her PhD, which was funded by a Government of Ireland (Irish Research Council) grant, analyzed the protection of landscape as expressed in cultural heritage law, environmental law and human rights. Before taking up her position at Leiden University, Amy coordinated and taught a course in International Human Rights Law with Boston University, Dublin. She is a guest lecturer in cultural heritage law at University College Dublin and more recently at the University of Nova Gorica, Venice. Amy has been actively involved with European Landscape Network since 2008 and is currently the scientific editor of UNISCAPE – the Network of Universities for the Implementation of the European Landscape Convention.

Research interests: International law, cultural heritage law, environmental law, human rights, landscape and land use, legal history, cultural geography, critical heritage theory.

Selected Publications:
• “Indigenous Rights in the Caribbean Archipelago: Dominica, St. Vincent and Trinidad Compared”, paper presented at the International Colloquium ‘Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, Faculty of Law, Leiden University, 13 June 2014 (journal article forthcoming, 2014).
• forthcoming, 2014) Landscape as Public Space: The Role of International and European Law in the Protection of Landscape in Europe (Oxford University Press).
• (2012) “The Human Dimension to Landscape Protection in International Law”, in F. Lenzerini and S. Borelli (eds.), Cultural Heritage, Cultural Rights, Cultural Diversity: New Developments in International Law, Leiden, Boston; M. Nijhoff, pp. 327-347.
• (2012) “The Implementation of the European Landscape Convention: potential benefits and challenges for Greece”, in T. Papayannis and P. Howard (eds.) Reclaiming the Greek Landscape. Athens, Greece: MedINA, pp. 85-90.
• (2011) “The ‘Right to Landscape’ in International Law”, in S. Egoz, J. Makhzoumi and G. Pungetti (eds.), The Right to Landscape: Contesting Landscape and Human Rights, London; Ashgate, pp. 57-70.
• (2010) “Landscape and Human Rights”, in Living Landscape: The European Landscape Convention in Research Perspective, Florence; Bandecchi & Vivaldi, Volume I, pp. 488-495.
• (2009) “Pirates of the Mediterranean? The Case of the ‘Black Swan and its Implications for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Region”, in A. F. Vrdoljak and F. Francioni (eds.), Illicit Traffic of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean, Florence; Academy of European Law, pp. 59-73.