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Study Session Strasbourg

The study session on environmental law held in the European youth centre in Strasbourg, France was attended by 29 enthusiastic and motivated environmental activists. Converging on the banks of the river Ill, youth from 18 different European countries spent one week studying the diverse topic of EU environmental law.

studysession2To get the ball rolling, attendees spent some time warming up with games and ice breakers, getting to know each other and breaking down some of the social barriers present with strangers. After this, everyone moved on through the "welcome space" which was a series of connected rooms. Each room contained inormation on an element of the weeks course. By moving from the different areas and engaging in the varied topics present in each section participants became informed in an informal way about the topics to be covered during the week.

Proceedings were kicked off by Bastian Küntzel, our educational advisor for the week. Discussions in the first half of the day revolved around the ideological issue of the separation between human and environmental rights. Participants discussed the place of environmental law in a human rights framework and vice versa. A key point identified was the fact that human rights are for humans, by humans, where as environmentalists are concerned with the effects of humans on the non human realm. Participants also recognized the importance of the two spheres of activism and their symbiotic relationship with one another.

The 2nd half of the day was given over to an expert speaker on Human rights. Merete Bjerregaard was good enough to give us some time from her busy schedule in order to have a friendly, informal chat with us. Being a lawyer in Council of Europe's division on Human Rights Law and Policy she was the ideal candidate to navigate us through the vast waters of this oceanic topic. Discussion revolved around the growing body of case work currently in place, specifically highlighting the connection between the two spheres. Special attention was given to a new and emerging group of refugees, identified as "climate change refugees" who are the victims at the forefront of this emerging problem.

After dealing with such lofty and ethereal issues, attendees relaxed with a pleasant evening of intercultural learning, socialising, eating and drinking. From ajvar to rakia, everybody shared their local delicacies and got to know each other that bit more.

Roll on Tuesday morning and after a late night, the bright and bubbly Ilaria Esposito from Italy started us off on a conversation about the institutions and stakeholders involved in the environmental advocacy scene. With the help of the expert, participants uncovered the meanings behind a lot of the confusing language used in the world of advocacy such as; the difference between a treaty and a declaration, what it means to be a pioneer, a brief history of the development of environmental law over the past 30 years and how laws are brought into being.

The afternoon was given over to a massive simulation of the "Conference of Parties". The depth and magnitude of this confusing process of mediation and communication between stakeholders was not lost on the youth of the study session, who were left slightly bewildered by the scope of the proceedings.

Wednesday our group welcomed Pawel Pawlaczyk an expert speaker and colleague of one of the organisers, Monika, from Poland. He shared with us his experience and knowledge on the complaints process for interceding in potentially environmentally damaging development projects. Using the Arhus Convention and EU:Directive2003/4/WE, We activists have a legal right to access information as well as a government authorized mechanism for preventing ecological abuse. Inspiring stuff!

This along with Thursday's presentation from Darek (The star of study session in my own humble opinion) was enough to convince us that real change is possible. Armed with cutting edge information on effective campaigning, we tried our hand at campaign construction using real life case studies presented to us by participants. The results were encouraging and if you have joined the YEE network, can be viewed online.

Friday was all about gathering our collective knowledge in order to produce a booklet on environmental law participation for youth. Using open space methodologies we split into identified core chapters and then worked on a rough draft of information to be included under each of the headings. The resulting publication will be widely distributed in multiple languages both in print and online, so watch this space : ) or join our mailing list for updates by visiting our website and look for the mail icon on the left hand side.

Happy advocating,

EVS volunteer,
YEE office.

Other opinions of the week

‘'Broke the distance between us, helped us discover our strength. A week of knowledge and experience feedback.''

Miltos, from Greece

"This study session was very useful. I learnt from other participants, we shared our experience in a group and it was inspiring for new challenges, I got new ideas."


"This study session offered us an intensive overview of environmental law and how we can be part of this interesting complicated world. We learned a lot during these 8 days, from the organizers, from the experts and from the experiences of each other. Now back home, the fascinating part starts. I can put in action what we learned there."

Lira - Albania