Online course: Rights-Based Approaches to Environmental Sustainability

Submitted by Ruth Butterfield | published 3rd Mar 2021 | last updated 25th Jan 2022

Climate Adaptation Training Annotation

  • Level: Introductory
  • Time commitment: 10-12 hours
  • Learning product: Online course (MOOC)
  • Sector: Multi-sector
  • Location: Asia-Pacific
  • Language:  English
  • Certificate available: No
The human rights online course will encourage more environmental practitioners to integrate a rights-based approach into their operations. Photo: Aaron Thomas/Unsplash


The absence of a globally recognized right to a healthy environment has not stopped the development of human rights norms relating to the environment. Nor has it prevented countries and regional bodies from enshrining this right in their respective constitutions and legislations/regional instruments. Human rights and environmental protection are mutually reinforcing in various ways.

This open online course on rights-based approaches to environmental sustainability aims at strengthening and expanding knowledge bases of environmental policymakers and practitioners in Asia-Pacific on the interlinkages between human rights and the environment/climate change. This includes e.g. how human rights are affected by climate change; how States’ human rights obligations are related to climate change and the challenges of applying human rights to climate change.

To gain access to the Rights-Based Approaches to Environmental Sustainability online course register here

Institutional background and trainer

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) developed this course with the SEI Asia Centre in Bangkok. RWI is a research and academic institution committed to human rights education and development across the world. 

Course trainers:

Dr. Sumudu Atapattu - Dr. Sumudu is the Director of Research Centers and Senior Lecturer at UW Law School and Affiliated Professor to RWI. She teaches in the area of International Environmental law and climate change and human rights . 

Helena Olsson - Helena has a Master Degree in Political Science with focus on Human Rights, Peace and Democracy from Lund University. 

Victor Bernard - Victor is a Programme Officer for the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Phnom Penh, working on the Regional Asia Programme. In this capacity, he oversees and manages the Thematic Study on the Right to a Safe, Clean and Sustainable Environment in ASEAN and provides programme support in the field of human rights and the environment.

Who would find this useful?

The course is developed to primarily benefit senior and mid-level programme officers working for environmental organisations with limited knowledge on human rights and its application to environmental and climate change programs. The course also addresses members of the civil society and academia, who work on environmental protection and climate change. 

Training material

The course is structured into 8 sessions each having some combination of quizzes, exercises, videos, further reading suggestions and reflections. All sessions are self-paced and flexible, so they can be completed at the participants’ own pace. 

Introduction to MOOC

This module introduces the MOOC and its expected learning outcomes.

Introducing human rights

In this module, the origins and purpose of the international human rights regime are explained, including how, by whom, and why the system developed and the main ideas and concepts behind it. Key contemporary debates, and challenges and opportunities for human rights moving forward are also discussed.

International Human Rights Law

the Scope and Nature of Rights- This module introduces international human rights law and the international human rights system, starting with a brief introduction to Public International Law. We will see what human rights are covered in binding treaties and what this means for States Parties

Human Rights and Environment

This module introduces key links between the human rights regime and environmental protection and sustainability, looking broadly at how the two fields connect and interact.

Human Rights and Climate Change

In this module, we continue to explain links between human rights and the environment, looking specifically at climate change where human rights have the same, but also other implications than what we described in module 4.

Monitoring System and Accountability Mechanisms 

The module presents the monitoring system of human rights, the UN system, and mechanisms at different levels. We also look at how regional systems include the environment and the role of Business in the human rightsystemYou will then hear reflections of regional actors that work with human rights accountability related to the environment.

Human Rights-based approaches

After a brief introduction to human rights principles, this module presents the third exercise of the course, guiding you to analyze one of your activities from a rights-based perspective

Wrap-up and course evaluation


Learning Outcomes

Enhance participants’ understanding of:

  • the origins and purpose of international human rights
  • what international human rights law covers and how it operates
  • How human rights can be applied, and are relevant, to issues of environmental sustainability.
  • What a rights-based approach is, and how it can be applied to activities and projects. 

In general the aim is to promote the use of human rights to achieve better outcomes in environmental programming and develop fundamental knowledge in participants to partake in subsequent trainings on integrating a rights-based approach to specific environmental programs.

Further resources