Conferring Legal Personality on the World's Rivers: A Brief Intellectual Assessment

Water International, 2019, DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2019.1631558

Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-30

27 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2019

See all articles by Gabriel Eckstein

Gabriel Eckstein

Texas A&M University School of Law

Ariella D'Andrea

Nordenfjeldske Development Services

Dr Virginia Marshall

Australian National University

Erin O'Donnell

University of Melbourne - Law School

Julia Talbot-Jones

Victoria University of Wellington

Deborah Curran

University of Victoria - Faculty of Law

Katie O'Bryan

Monash University Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2019

Abstract

The following compilation is substantially reproduced and adapted from a series of essays that appeared in the blog of the International Water Law Project (internationalwaterlaw.org). The series was solicited in response to the unique recent phenomenon in which a number of courts and legislatures around the world have conferred legal personality on particular rivers. What resulted is a fantastic, thought-provoking and timely compilation.

In effect, various water bodies around the world have been accorded legal rights – some though legislative actions and others via judicial decisions – that in some jurisdictions, equate with those recognized in human beings. Although there may be interesting parallels in rights accorded to corporations, children and the intellectually challenged, the practical implications of these particular actions are still not well recognized or understood.

Harkening back to Christopher Stone’s remarkable 1972 article ‘Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects’, the series pursued some of the most fascinating and perplexing issues surrounding legal personality in rivers. What actual rights might such legal personality provide? How does a river represent itself in court and before other societal institutions? If a river can suffer harm and sue alleged perpetrators of that harm, might it be subject to lawsuits for damages it might inflict as a result of flooding? What resources might a river have at its disposal to protect its rights? Does the recognition of such rights comport with the rights, interests and perspective of indigenous peoples? These are just some of the unique issues considered in these provocative essays.

The legislative and judicial actions discussed in this series are a novel legal approach to the management of critical freshwater resources. These mechanisms, however, have yet to be fully evaluated, scrutinized and tested. The essays that follow constitute a thought-provoking effort to contribute to that assessment. Moreover, they were written with the sincere objective of ensuring the sustainability of unique freshwater resources around the world.

The International Water Law Project is itself a unique institution. Existing solely on the Internet, the website is one of the premier resources and clearinghouses for information on international water law and policy. Its purpose is to educate and provide relevant resources to researchers and the public and to facilitate cooperation over the world’s freshwater resources.

Suggested Citation

Eckstein, Gabriel and D'Andrea, Ariella and Marshall, Virginia and O'Donnell, Erin and Talbot-Jones, Julia and Curran, Deborah and O'Bryan, Katie, Conferring Legal Personality on the World's Rivers: A Brief Intellectual Assessment (July 1, 2019). Water International, 2019, DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2019.1631558; Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3431344

Gabriel Eckstein (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

TX
United States
817-212-3912 (Phone)

Ariella D'Andrea

Nordenfjeldske Development Services ( email )

Virginia Marshall

Australian National University ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.anu.adu.au

Erin O'Donnell

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia

Julia Talbot-Jones

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

Deborah Curran

University of Victoria - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 1700
Victoria, British Columbia V8W2Y2
Canada
250-853-3105 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uvic.ca/faculty_staff/faculty_directory/curran.php

Katie O'Bryan

Monash University Faculty of Law ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

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