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Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Contribution to GTI Forum Experiments in Movement Unity

Alessandro Pelizzon

The emergence of Nature (now mostly capitalized in the literature) as a subject of rights is now the subject of history, no longer of speculation. Since Christopher Stone popularized (if not outright introduced) the idea in 1972, Thomas Berry articulated it in quasi-metaphysical terms, Cormac Cullinan revived it in 2002, and Ecuador enshrined it within its 2008 Constitution, the idea has been successfully legislated and litigated hundreds of times in tens of countries. In fact, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature's Ecological Jurisprudence Tracker project has identified, as of the beginning of 2023, more than 450 eco-jurisprudential initiatives across 42 jurisdictions (plus the international arena).

That the theory has now become praxis is undeniable. Equally undeniable is the transformative power of such an idea. Indeed, the United Nations has defined the emergence of an ecological jurisprudence (in particular, of rights of Nature initiatives) around the globe as the fastest-growing legal movement of the twenty-first century. The transformative possibilities the idea entails are both theoretical and practical. I will not dwell on the theoretical implications here, as this is not the appropriate place to do so, but as a short reflection on the practical implications, that means that they have the capacity to effect change either in the daily practices of individuals across the planet (be it because they are legally expected to change their behaviors or because they are inspired by the theoretical possibilities entailed by an emerging ecological jurisprudence) or in the very systems that enable such individual practices.

To support the emergence of such an idea, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) was established in 2010 at the feet of the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador. GARN is not a single entity, but rather a global network of organizations and individuals committed to the universal adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect, and enforce “rights of Nature,” however they are articulated in different jurisdictions. As GARN’s site suggests, “rather than treating nature as property under the law, the time has come to recognize that natural communities have the right to exist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles.” GARN members are a diverse network of scientists, attorneys, economists, indigenous leaders, authors, spiritual leaders, business leaders, politicians, actors, homemakers, students, and activists: people from all walks of life who are looking to transform our human relationship with our planet.1

GARN’s work is organized around two fundamental axes: its “hubs” and the work of its “Rights of Nature tribunals.” The hubs are decentralized regional and thematic nodes designed to coordinate and support the activities of members within a particular issue, area, or region. These hubs are established and run by members who either work in a particular geographical area or who share particular characteristics or interests. The purpose of the hubs is to increase focused support and networking opportunities for the organizations, communities, and individuals working on Rights of Nature; build collaborations and create collective strategies for the recognition and implementation of the Rights of Nature in a region/theme/sector; provide support to local and regional efforts; respond to urgent needs and calls to action; and build visibility for key Rights of Nature efforts.

Among the thematic hubs are the Youth Hub (a space created by youth and for youth—defined as under 35 years old—from all over the world to empower youth to become ambassadors of the Rights of Nature movement, generate positive impact, and advocate successfully on behalf of the Rights of Nature and future generations), the Academic Hub (founded to harness the extensive and multidisciplinary scholarship that has developed, particularly over the last decade, around GARN’s core commitment to the support, adoption, and implementation of legal structures that respect and enforce Rights of Nature), and the Legal Hub. Among the geographic hubs are the European Hub, the Latin American Hub, and the African Hub. Additionally, recognizing the importance of Indigenous leadership and guidance for the growing rights of Nature movement, GARN members created an Indigenous Council as a platform for Indigenous leaders from around the globe to join together and have a leading voice in GARN.

The other main focus of GARN has been the establishment of Rights of Nature tribunals, instances of popular adjudication designed to examine systemic Rights of Nature alternatives to the current insufficient solutions and failed negotiations put forward by governing nation-states. These tribunals aim to create a forum for people from all around the world to speak on behalf of nature, to protest the destruction of the earth (destruction that is often sanctioned by governments and corporations), and to make recommendations about Earth’s protection and restoration. The Tribunal also has a strong focus on enabling Indigenous Peoples to share their unique concerns and solutions about land, water, and culture with the global community. These tribunals have both a performative and exploratory function. While they lack any political or legal legitimacy, their primary function is to draw attention to particularly contentious issues via the enacted mechanism of a judicial-like procedure that is vested with the auctoritas of law’s iconography. At the same time, they also provide a laboratory in which to discuss and workshop many of the ideas and solutions that distinct jurisdictions have put forward in their articulation of different rights of Nature solutions. Overall, these tribunals provide a framework for educating civil society and governments on the fundamental tenets of Rights of Nature, and an instrument for legal experts to examine constructs needed to more fully integrate Rights of Nature.

Finally, one of GARN’s most recent developments has been the creation of an online repository of all existing eco-jurisprudential initiatives. The Eco-jurisprudence Monitor was launched at GARN’s global gathering in Siena in 2022, with a comprehensive tracker articulated in the form of an interactive map that allows users to learn more about specific eco-jurisprudential initiatives around the planet. The Monitor is still expanding and aims to include a chorus of voices from the activists and architects of those initiatives, as well as an introductory library on these topics. Initially, the library was intended to be a comprehensive reference list of all scholarly (that is, peer-reviewed, thus excluding general news and media articles) publications in the field. However, while the number of scholarly publications in 2010 was below 10, the number is now well above 18,000 and growing. It is thus impossible to comprehensively categories the growing literature in a single place.

This growth of scholarly literature, however, far from being daunting, is a great testimony of the incredible interest the world is showing in this idea. To paraphrase Victor Hugo, it truly seems that the idea of Nature as a legal subject (rather than a legal object) is an idea whose time has truly come.

1. The functioning of GARN as a complex and interconnected network of distinct entities and organizations has been thoroughly mapped by Pamela Martin and Craig Kauffman in The Politics of the Rights of Nature: Strategies for Building a More Sustainable Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2021).

Alessandro Pelizzon
Alessandro Pelizzon is a co-founder and an Executive Committee Member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and a member of the Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network.

Cite as Alessandro Pelizzon, "Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature," contribution to GTI Forum "Experiments in Movement Unity," Great Transition Initiative (November 2023),

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