UGENT Human Rights Research Network

Published on 26-10-2023, Last modified on 26-10-2023

Roundtable Discussion “Crossing the Planetary Boundaries: A View from the Business and Human Rights Framework and Global Environmental Justice”

06/12/2023 @ 11:00:00
Faculty Board Room, Emile Braunschool, Campus Aula | Volderstraat 3, 9000 Gent

This activity is open to the public, and free of charge.

75 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted as the common standard of achievement for all human beings. However, the main corollary, that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law has not been a reality so far. Yet multiple unfair situations are structural and more serious in some regions than others. In this period, development policies grounded in economic liberalization also globalized, which brought not only winners and losers but also serious risks to ecosystems.

This connects to the findings of the Stockholm Resilience Centre alerting that humans are crossing the planetary boundaries and putting at irreversible risk the Earth system, and consequently all human rights. These boundaries are being crossed by the increasing pressure of economic activities on ecosystems worldwide. As a response, the international community has been focusing on decarbonizing industries, some of them being identified as the main contributors to global warming.

One of the policy responses is the progressive transformation and enlargement of the Business and Human Rights Framework into mandatory standards that seek to hold corporate groups that drive global value chains accountable for impacts on human rights, and more recently on ecosystems, including global warming. However, what kind of impact assessments should be conducted to avoid crossing the planetary boundaries without leaving vulnerable communities behind has been unexplored. The EU (European Union), for example, is committed to an ambitious energy transition and decarbonization plan which it intends to implement through various regulatory mechanisms. The EU also foresees a “just transition mechanism” for EU citizens, but the impact of these policies on vulnerable communities worldwide remains ambiguous.

This roundtable brings together participants from academia and civil society to put in context the policies that require the corporate world to decarbonize their value chains and curb biodiversity loss by reflecting on the consequences of these policies on communities living in countries highly dependent on extractive industries or agriculture. Likewise, it will discuss what the aspects of concern are from a human rights perspective, regarding measures that aim at addressing the environmental crisis but not necessarily in an equitable manner worldwide.

Some guiding questions for the roundtable are:

  • To what extent does the decarbonization of value chains need to incorporate an impact assessment on the consequences for regions highly dependent on extractive industries?
  • To what extent does the energy transition require a firm commitment of technology transfer, fair innovation and benefit sharing agreements with countries where e.g., critical raw materials are being extracted?
  • To what extent will the due diligence on the implementation of deforestation-free products need an impact assessment on the consequences of these measures on peasant communities in exporting countries?
  • To what extent is the pursuit of critical raw materials compatible with a global policy of environmental protection?


  • Lotte Hoex , IPIS (International Peace Information Service)
  • Stefaan Smis, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Babs Verhoeve, Stop Ecocide- Nederland
  • Boris Verbrugge, Hiva, KU Leuven and Universiteit Gent
  • Karlijn Van den Broeck, Catapa
  • Sarah Katz-Levigne IOB UAntwerpen
  • Wies Willems Broederlijk Delen

Liliana Lizarazo Rodriguez -PI ERC Curiae Virides research project- Brussels School of Governance, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


This event is part of the International Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Conference ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75: Rethinking and Constructing its Future Together’



Ghent citizens can register Here

Participants of the conference ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75’ can register Here