The Right to Landscape - Contesting Landscape and Human Rights.
Edited by Shelley Egoz, Lincoln University, New Zealand; Jala Makhzoumi, American University of Beirut, Lebanon and Gloria Pungetti, Cambridge Centre for Landscape and People, UK

The Right to Landscape

the Right To Landscape (RtL) logoThe Right to Landscape©2008 (RtL) Project is a collaborative initiative between Lincoln University, New Zealand, the Cambridge Centre for Landscape and People (CCLP) UK and the American University of Beirut( AUB), Lebanon.

The underpinning idea is to expand on the concept of human rights and to explore the right to landscape. It is based on the premise that Landscape, as an umbrella concept of an integrated entity of physical environments, is imbued with meaning and comprises an underpinning component for ensuring well-being and dignity of communities and individuals.  The aim is to collectively define the concept of the right to landscape and to generate a body of knowledge that will support human rights.

The initiative was launched with a workshop (for more information see below) on 8-10 December 2008 in Cambridge, UK, coinciding with the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The three RtL co-ordinators, Dr. Jala Makhzoumi (AUB), Dr. Gloria Pungetti (University of Cambridge, UK) and Dr. Shelley Egoz (Lincoln University) are currently working on a publication that collates a range of essays on the topic.  In Parallel they are engaging in proposals for several projects related to landscape and human rights and maintaining a worldwide network.

The two and a half day workshop: ‘The Right to Landscape: Contesting Landscape and Human Rights’ took place at Jesus College Cambridge, UK 8-10 December 2008. The proposition of this workshop was that “landscape is a shared resource and all human beings deserve the right to landscape”. The call for papers, which went out in January 2008 and aimed at landscape scholars and professionals across disciplines, attracted an overwhelming response. Due to the nature of the workshop and the need to maintain a small scale event only 30 participants were invited to present a range of case studies that formed the basis for stimulating discussions.

The first afternoon session was open to the public and included a talk by Dr Maguelonne Dejeant-Pons, Head of the Landscape and Spatial Planning Division of the Council of Europe. Her presentation on taking the European Landscape Convention from concept to law was highly relevant to the workshop’s theme. She highlighted that “the landscape forms a whole whose constituent parts are considered simultaneously in their interrelations”, and that discussing rights also implies responsibilities that governing bodies and individuals would have towards landscape.  The endorsement of the initiative by the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) was represented in the opening speech of IFLA President, Dr Diane Menzies who emphasised the challenges landscape professionals face in light of the state of the planet. The main public address was a lecture by Dr Stefanie Rixecker, Dean of the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design at Lincoln University, New Zealand, and Chair of the New Zealand Governance Team of Amnesty International. Conveying Amnesty International’s endorsement of the RtL initiative, she too highlighted environmental degradation and climate change in particular, as the major threats to human well-being impacting on human rights at the most basic levels. Dr Rixecker called for the need for robust discussions to understand place, identity and landscape better, and the necessity for creativity and imagination in order to be able to address these forthcoming acute problems in a meaningful way.

The following two days included paper and poster presentations followed by discussion sessions. The two keynote speakers, both well-known academics who have made seminal contributions to the field of landscape, were Michael Jones from Norway University of Science and Technology, and Kenneth Olwig from SLU-Alnarp, Sweden. Both offered their perspectives and inspiration on the notion of the right to landscape. Michael Jones discussed the relationship between legal rights, landscape, local identity and cultural heritage. He presented the examples of Orkney and Shetland and maintained that contested interpretations of history often underpin conflicts over territory and legal systems disputes. Kenneth Olwig’s talk focused on the relationship between the conceptualization of landscape and the definition of the right to landscape. He argued that differences in interpretation of entitlements would stem from the way in which “landscape” is understood: whether landscape is seen as the often referred to visual representation, or as custom practices embodied in the concept. Olwig suggested that if the latter understanding is adopted, it can form the basis for both legal and extra-legal action.

Other presentations included a range of case studies all representing the convergence of landscape and human rights in various parts of the world, including: The Middle East, Africa, North America, Europe and Oceania.  The goal was By presenting a wide range

Discussions revolved around the aim of the workshop, which was “to collectively define The Right to Landscape”. Generating one definition proved as difficult as trying to achieve one definition of landscape. However, the fact that the call for papers attracted so many scholars and professionals attested to the potency of the concept and the need to continued discourse on the topic. Participants agreed to carry on debating and contribute to the evolution of the concept. Further avenues for facilitating discussions and actions are to be developed by CCLP. Workshop papers will be published in due course.


BOOK PUBLICATION: The Right to Landscape - Contesting Landscape and Human Rights. Edited by Shelley Egoz, Lincoln University, New Zealand; Jala Makhzoumi, American University of Beirut, Lebanon and Gloria Pungetti, Cambridge Centre for Landscape and People, UK.

The recent 60th anniversary of the declaration of human rights has prompted reflections on the past achievements and limitations of the international community's efforts to address profound ethical human dilemmas through charters and legislation. It is also timely to examine future ways of dealing with human rights in the context of the impending climate change crisis that is bound to inflict further hardships and exacerbate pressing issues of human rights. This "perfect storm" scenario generates a rapidly changing world order which must simultaneously contend with heightened and new conflicts and their attendant human rights violations. In order to do so, it will be necessary to design and create holistic frameworks that focus and capitalise on the power and leverage of connections at local, regional, national and global scales. The speed and potential impact of change means it is urgent for intellectuals to build a new interdisciplinary discursive framework and engage in research to undertake visionary, sound and just responses to the anticipated complex humanitarian problems. The material bearings of landscape are the foundation for securing livelihoods and planning for equitable futures and so 'landscape' proposes a pertinent holistic framework to address such challenges as it implies both a conceptual framework for identity construction and a physical context.
This book introduces a rich and innovative new discourse which links Landscape with Human Rights. It then serves as a platform to inspire a diversity of ideas and conceptual interpretations. Such investigations test the discourse on a regional scale within the European Landscape Convention, and locally, in terms of indigenous claims and community rights. The case studies discussed are wide in their geographical distribution and interdisciplinary in the theoretical situation of their authors, breaking fresh ground for an emerging dialogue on the convergence of landscape and human rights. 

Page last updated on: 17/10/2011