By Akugizibwe Peter Araali
Harmony with Nature, a Report of the Secretary-General of United Nations General Assembly, has singled out Uganda as the first nation in Africa to recognize the rights of Nature in national legislation.
Uganda’s feat was made possible by efforts of parliamentarians working with local civil society organiza tions Advocates for Natural Resources and Development, the African Institute for Culture and Ecology (AFRICE) and the Gaia Foundation.
The inclusion of the rights of nature under section 4 of the National Environment Act (2019) underscores that citizens’ rights to a healthy environment cannot be realized unless the health of Mother Nature herself is protected.
Furthermore, in Uganda’s Albertine Rift, where unique biodiversity is under threat from energy giants preparing to extract the largest onshore oil deposit in sub-Saharan Africa, local Bagungu communities are making new advances.
The Buliisa District Council, in late 2020, passed an ordinance that recognizes earth-centred customary governance systems as a cornerstone for protecting the land and living in harmony with Nature.
The Executive Director of AFRICE, who also doubles as an expert in earth jurisprudence and a member of UN Member of Harmony with Nature Initiative, Denis Tabaro says it is a milestone for AFRICE to work with indigenous communities.
The indigenous communities are trying to revive and strengthen the protection of the mother earth which Tabaro says is the sole source of human and non-human [nature] beings.
Tabaro adds that this work is underpinned by earth jurisprudence which asserts that the earth is orderly and lawful so human beings must obey these laws in order to have a planet worth living in.
The rights of nature are now recognized in a variety of legal systems, including those based on civil law tradition (26 States), mixed law (8 States) and common law (6 States).
Canada provides an example of the implementation of the rights of nature in a mixed-law nation. The province of Quebec has a civil law tradition in most areas while other provinces and territories have a common law tradition.
And despite the great difference between these legal systems, the rights of nature have to be recognized in each of them.
The adoption of rights of nature legislation has been achieved in all branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary – as well as by institutional assemblies and indigenous tribal councils.
So far, the most significant recognition of the rights of hature has been achieved through the legislative channel, followed by the judicial channel, the executive channel, institutional assemblies and indigenous tribal councils.