Council of Europe HELP online course on The Environment and Human Rights


Loss of biodiversity, climate change, extinction of species, pollution and the overall degradation of ecosystems have a profound global impact on the enjoyment of human rights and require the widest possible international cooperation in order to prevent or remedy this adverse effect.

The protection of the environment and the protection of human rights are interconnected: one cannot be achieved without the other, nor at the expense of the other. Life and well-being on our planet are contingent on our collective capacity to guarantee both human rights and a healthy environment to future generations. A human rights-based approach – using human rights laws and mechanisms in the context of environmental impacts – offers an innovative and evolving tool for environmental protection.

A number of international human rights standards, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, have successfully been invoked in environmental issues.

Furthermore, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the case-law of the European Committee of Social rights affirm the undeniable inter-connections between environmental protection on the one hand and human rights on the other. For example, the European Court of Human Rights has so far ruled in some 300 environment-related cases, applying concepts such as the right to life, right to respect for private life or right to property to a wide range of issues including pollution, man-made or natural disasters and access to environmental information.

This free HELP online course addresses the legal frameworks and practical approaches that will support legal practitioners and others in understanding the connections between human rights and the environment, in particular how to apply a human rights-based approach to environmental protection.

This HELP course explores the State’s human rights obligations in an environmental context; provides practical guidance on how a human rights-based approach can be applied to environmental protection; analyses the greening of human rights in regional systems; and offers an introduction to corporate environmental responsibility.

The topics covered are explored in a practical way, using presentations, interactive screens, knowledge tests and reflective exercises.

The course was developed in 2021.