The Environment and Human Rights: new free Council of Europe HELP online course

Strasbourg 16 April 2021
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The Environment and Human Rights: new free Council of Europe HELP online course

The new Council of Europe HELP (Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals) course on The Environment and Human Rights is now available on the HELP online platform.

The course was developed by two experts, including a senior lawyer from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. Representatives of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, the Council of Europe Department of the European Social Charter, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Secretariat of the Partial Agreement EUR-OPA, as well as Council of Europe staff members working on cooperation activities, also contributed to the development of the course.

In association with the project, this course has been developed alongside the forthcoming updated HELP course on Business and Human Rights, which will be published soon on the HELP online platform These two courses are intended as complementary resources that can be taken together or separately.

The course was developed under the Project “Online Platform for Business and Human Rights”, implemented by the Council of Europe HELP Programme in cooperation with the Council of Europe Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), funded by the Dutch and German Authorities. The views herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official position of Germany or the Netherlands.

Background and aim

Loss of biodiversity, climate change, extinction of species, pollution and the overall degradation of ecosystems have a profound global impact on the enjoyment of human rights and require the widest possible international cooperation in order to prevent or remedy this adverse effect.

The protection of the environment and the protection of human rights are interconnected: one cannot be achieved without the other, nor at the expense of the other. Life and well-being on our planet are contingent on our collective capacity to guarantee both human rights and a healthy environment to future generations. A human rights-based approach - using human rights laws and mechanisms in the context of environmental impacts - offers an innovative and evolving tool for environmental protection.

A number of international human rights standards, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, have successfully been invoked in environmental issues. Furthermore, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the case-law of the European Committee of Social rights affirm the undeniable inter-connections between environmental protection on the one hand and human rights on the other. In particular, the European Court of Human Rights has so far ruled in some 300 environment-related cases.

This free HELP online course addresses the legal frameworks and practical approaches that will support legal practitioners and others in understanding the connections between human rights and the environment, in particular how to apply a human rights-based approach to environmental protection.

Course Structure

The course contains 4 substantive modules and has an estimated learning time of 6 hours.

Module 0: Introduction

Welcome message, navigation instructions, course authors and course target group

Module 1: Key concepts (1.5 hours)


Legal regimes for the protection of the environment

Module 2: The human rights-based approach to environmental protection (1.5 hours)

Human rights and the environment – general overview

Legal background of the human rights-based approach

Substantive, participatory and procedural human rights

The right to a clean, healthy and safe environment

Module 3: Green human rights in regional human rights systems (2 hours)

Regional human rights systems – an overview

The European system

The Inter-American System

The African System

Module 4: Environmental degradation and corporate accountability (1 hour)

The impact of corporate activities on the environment

The concept of Corporate Environmental Accountability

Corporate Environmental Accountability in regional and national litigation

Access the free online course

The course can be accessed by visiting the Council of Europe HELP online platform at

First you need to open a HELP Platform account if you have not yet done so (2 minutes). Then you can follow this link to directly access the online course:

Upon succesfully completing the course, a HELP statement of accomplishment can be generated in an electronic format and can be printed by the user.

The HELP course on The Environment and Human Rights is available in English and will be available in additional languages in the future.

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