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You can follow the event live on 23 september 09.45 - 11.15 CET at

Rights of Nature

In this time of ecological crisis, the law can provide new and much-needed perspectives. Worldwide, an increasing number of natural entities – forests, rivers, mountains, even Mother Earth herself – are being recognised as so-called legal entities. In this legal revolution, Nature is no longer seen as an object to use and discard, but rather as a subject with intrinsic value, and importantly, with legally enforceable rights.

The Embassy of the North Sea commissioned Laura Burgers and Jessica den Outer – both experts on the Rights of Nature within the UN Network Harmony with Nature – to write the first edition of the compendium Rights of Nature. Case studies from Six Continents, zooming in on one or two case studies per continent. Each case study offers a sketch of the different ways in which the rights of nature have been recognised, with the authors detailing the context and world view underpinning those rights, as well as their current implementation and enforcement. 

On the occasion of the launch, part of the public programme of Who is We? the Netherlands’ official contribution to La Biennale di Venezia, we will dive into questions like: how do the concepts of different indigenous cultures translate to legal instruments? How to work with the inevitable frictions between indigenous traditions and the legal systems that, to some extent, all derived from European models and their cultural preferences? And how to organise Rights of Nature in European jurisdictions whose cultures developed the narrative of separation between humans and nature?

Dr Daphina Misiedjan will interview Justin Sobion (doctoral candidate Environmental Law, University of Auckland) about Rights of Nature case studies in New Zealand, Shrishtee Bajpai (researcher and activist) about cases in Bangladesh and Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (senior researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut) about Zoöps in the Netherlands. After this, Daphina Misiedjan, Jessica den Outer and Laura Burgers will discuss different worldviews, relationships with nature and tactics for implementing legal status for non-human life.

The morning will close with a short introduction to the Zoöp model by Klaas Kuitenbrouwer. This model is designed to allow organisations to collaborate with (representatives of) non-human life and to realise the principles and effects of the Rights of Nature within their own operational sphere. Zoöps work towards the realisation of a regenerative economy.

The Zoöp model can complement and anticipate the slow and thorny development of new legislation and, importantly, it can be implemented in situations where legislative reform will not or cannot take place.


The Embassy of the North Sea was founded on the principle that the sea owns itself. The Embassy of the North Sea listens to the voices of plants, animals, microbes and people in order to involve them in decision-making that concerns the North Sea. Within this context, the embassy is investigating whether the North Sea should become its own legal entity. It has plotted a route through to 2030, firstly learning to listen to the sea before learning to speak with it. Finally, it will negotiate on behalf of the North Sea and all the life that it contains.

Jessica den Outer has a Master’s degree in international environmental law and works as an independent consultant, writer and speaker on ecocentric law (the Rights of Nature and ecocide). She started her journey researching the Rights of Nature for her Master’s thesis in 2017. In 2019 she was recognized as one of the youngest Rights of Nature experts within the United Nations Harmony with Nature network. In 2020, she was named one the Duurzame Jonge 100 (the top 100 young sustainability pioneers in the Netherlands). She is currently focusing on the implementation of the Rights of Nature in the Netherlands. She is one of the initiators of project Maas in de Wet, which pleads for legal rights for the river Meuse.

Laura Burgers defended her PhD thesis on climate change litigation in November 2020. She is an assistant professor at the law faculty of the University of Amsterdam. For the Embassy of the North Sea, she wrote an essay on the question of whether the North Sea should become a legal entity with its own enforceable rights, which was published in the book De stem van de Noordzee (The voice of the North Sea) by Boom publishers Amsterdam. This book was nominated as the best Dutch philosophy publication of 2020. Burgers is an expert on the Rights of Nature within the UN Network Harmony with Nature. 

Dr Daphina Misiedjan is assistant-professor at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)/ Erasmus University in the Netherlands, an associated researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Oceans, Water and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL) and 2020/2021 fellow at The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS). Dr Misiedjan specialises in issues concerning environmental justice and human rights. Her book, Towards a Sustainable Human Right to Water, won the 2017 Agnites Vrolik Prize. She is interested in Global South perspectives on environmental justice and new developments including the right to clean air and the Rights of Nature.

Harpo ’t Hart is a curator, designer and sound artist. As a board member of the Embassy of the North Sea, he is responsible for the artistic programme. He studied piano at the Utrecht Conservatory, Media technology at Leiden University and Sound Studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin. In his work he questions the way we listen to the world. How can we listen to our rapidly changing world? A world of climate change, a world in which electronic devices listen to us? This is why he is researching a perspective of music that is not about people: a concert of things.

Klaas Kuitenbrouwer is a senior researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut. Educated as a historian, Kuitenbrouwer researches topics at the intersections of culture, technology and ecology at Het Nieuwe Instituut and develops, curates and moderates knowledge, programmes and events in these fields. He initiated the Zoöp project.