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1st Annual Environment and Human Rights Course & Field Visit in Costa Rica

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HREA and the University for Peace Human Rights Center annually organise a blended learning and field experience on the increasingly important field of environment and human rights.

Environment and Human Rights: a blended learning and field-based experience in Costa Rica - 1st Annual Course & Field Visit 

  1. E-learning Course Environment and Human Rights (2 April-13 May 2014)
  2. Field Experience in Costa Rica (2-7 June 2014)

Recommended for: The course is intended for environmental and human rights academics, advocates, and practitioners who seek a balance of education and work at the institutional and community levels. Candidates should have a good written command of English and have high competence and comfort with computer and Internet use. HREA and the UPEACE Human Rights Centre aim to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants. We believe that for a course of this nature, the greater the diversity, the better.

Please note that it is also possible to participate in only the e-learning or field component of this course.

EHR 2014

1. E-learning Course: Environment and Human Rights (2 April-13 May 2014)

This 6-week e-learning course focuses on the intersections of international environmental law and international human rights law. Participants will explore the foundations of both the legal regimes and analyse the theoretical and actual linkages between the two. Amongst other interfaces, participants will study the doctrinal and policy debates on linking the right to a healthy environment with human rights such as life, health, personal integrity, food, housing, information, public participation, natural resources, livelihood and remedies. Additionally, participants will analyse how violations of international environmental law result in a complex array of human rights violations, with a focus on marginalised populations such as urban and rural poor communities, women, indigenous, disabled, children, and agricultural workers.  Participants will also analyse the strengths and weaknesses of legal instruments and systems, and create strategies for a paradigm shift toward an agenda for sustainable peace based on prevention of environmental and human rights violations.

This course involves approximately 30 hours of reading, interaction with students and instructor on discussion boards, quizzes, a written assignment and webinars. The course is based on a participatory, active learning approach, with an emphasis on critical reflection and peer-to-peer learning.


Week 1: Foundations of international environmental law and human rights law
Week 2: Linkages among environmental and human rights legal instruments
Week 3: Identifying stakeholders and analysing the impact of environmental and Human Rights violations on marginalised communities
Week 4: Evaluation of environmental and human rights legal strategies implemented at the institutional and structural level; legal empowerment strategies at the community level
Week 5: Popular education: Civil society organisations and implementation of human rights and environmental law education strategies for marginalised communities
Week 6: Paradigm shift in approaching violations of environmental law and human rights: From post-violation/post-conflict judicial reparations/resolutions toward adoption of preventive strategies for ensuring sustainable peace

2. Field Visit in Costa Rica (2-7 June 2014)

The field visit will include an orientation and workshop at the UPEACE main campus (2 June), and a five day field trip to various parts of Costa Rica including a night at the Pacific beach town of Tamarindo (3-7 June).

Please plan to arrive in Costa Rica no later than Sunday, 1 June and depart from Costa Rica on Sunday, 8 June. If participants wish to extend their stay, they may do so at one’s own expense.

Location: UPEACE campus and various parts of Costa Rica.

Language: English (Spanish skills are desirable, but not required)

Format: The field visit will include a one-day introductory workshop at the UPEACE main campus followed by a field trip to various parts of Costa Rica, where participants will visit different projects and meet varied stakeholders on issues related to the environment, human rights and sustainable development. The field experience is intense and there will be a debriefing session every day. A wrap-up session will be held in Tamarindo on the morning of 7 June before the group returns to San José/Ciudad Colon.

Content: The field visit will build upon the 6-week e-learning course Environment and Human Rights, and will increase participants’ knowledge and understanding about how the subject is being dealt with in Costa Rica – a country that is known for its leadership in this field.

The field course will explore the linkages between different elements of the human rights and environment agenda, with focus on a holistic approach to sustainable development. The visits will cover a wide range of social, economic, and environmental issues, drawing on the intersections between the three areas. The impacts of different activities on local communities (and vice-versa) will be a strong focus. Topics covered include but are not limited to:

1. Impact of industrial scale agriculture on conservation (including issues of water quality and quantity, bio-diversity, forest cover)
2. Private conservation projects in Costa Rica and studies on bio-diversity
3. Tropical rain-forests and sustainable development
4. Payment for environmental services
5. Sustainable forest management
6. Reforestation with native tree species
7. Hydroelectricity and sustainable development
8. Sustainable agriculture
9. Sustainable aqua-culture
10. Wildlife protection and conservation
11. Costa Rica's National Parks system and conservation policies
12. Tropical Dry Forests and Sustainable Development
13. Environment and water security
14. Environment and food security
15. Tourism, eco-tourism and sustainable development
16. Business corporations and the environment and human rights nexus
17. Education on environmental issues in Costa Rica
18. Green Economy and REDD+

Tentative Itinerary: 1 June (Sunday): Arrival in Ciudad Colon

2 June (Monday): Orientation and Workshop on "Introduction to Environment and Human Rights in the Costa Rican Context" at UPEACE campus

3 June (Tuesday): Departure from Ciudad Colon for Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui

  • Dole banana plantation
  • Pineapple production sites
  • La TIRIMBINA (Private conservation projects)

4 June (Wednesday): Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui

  • FUNDECOR (Payment for environmental services)
  • Private hydroelectricity company
  • Visit native species reforestation projects

5 June (Thursday): Cañas area on the Pacific side of Costa Rica

  • La Pacifica (Sustainable farming, Tilapia production project)
  • Wild Cat Rescue Center

6 June (Friday): Santa Rosa National Park and Tamarindo (beach town on Pacific Coast)

  • Santa Rosa National Park
  • Tamarindo

7 June (Saturday): Wrap up session in Tamarindo, beach time, and return to Ciudad Colon (End of course)

Please note that the above list of contents covered and the itinerary is tentative. Since this is a customized course, participants are welcome to suggest specific topics ahead of time.

Accommodation: The field trip includes visiting several environmental projects and areas of interest across Costa Rica. As such, participants may be hosted on some nights by host organizations. Accommodations will be clean and neat, but will not be five-star. Also, on some occasions, participants will be placed in shared accommodations with co-participants.

Participants are expected to arrange their own travel insurance and ensure they meet all visa requirements for the field visit (including any visas participants may need while in transit to and from Costa Rica). UPEACE will provide documentation for your visa applications upon request. Participants should also check whether they need any vaccinations for their travel.

Course instructors: The field course will be led by Prof. Jan Breitling (Costa Rica/Germany) and Prof. Mihir Kanade (India). Prof. Breitling is the Head of Department of Environment and Development at UPEACE. Prof. Kanade is the Director of the UPEACE Human Rights Centre and is a faculty member in the Department of International Law and Human Rights at UPEACE.

Course fee: The fee for the blended learning programme is US$ 2,000 (non-credit). The fee covers: tuition for the 6-week e-learning course; accommodation for 7 nights in Costa Rica (3 nights in Ciudad Colon, of which two nights will be spent with a host family immediately after arrival and before departure from the Juan Santamaria airport, 4 nights at various places across Costa Rica); transportation during the field visit (participant airfare and airport transfers are not included), meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner on all 7 days of the field visit in Costa Rica); and course materials. This rate is available until 1 April 2014. Unfortunately, HREA and UPEACE do not have scholarship funding/grants available to support participation in the program.

Certificate: Upon successful completion of the e-learning and field-based components of the course, participants will receive a certificate issued jointly by the Human Rights Centre at UPEACE and HREA.

Accessibility: HREA and UPEACE seek to ensure our training programs are fully accessible for persons with disabilities and that everyone is able to participate on an equal basis with others. Because of the nature of the course, however, including the fact that it will include a lot of walking through rainforests, there may be obstacles to participation for some individuals. We ask that you please write to us directly with any questions or concerns about this aspect of the training program, as well as the specific types of accommodation you may need in order to participate.

Please note that it is also possible to participate in only the e-learning or field component of this course.

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The program is limited to 25 participants. Participants are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Registration is closed.

For enquiries, please contact Nathaniel Weisenberg (Training Coordinator): +1 617 301-4323 or e-mail

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