Katarina Hovden
Katarina Hovden

PhD fellow

  • PhD programme

    Karen Blixens Plads 16, 2300 København S, Søndre Campus, Building: 6A.4.37

    Phone: +45 35 33 20 24

PhD Fellow (2017-2021), Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

Young Professional (2018-), Earth-centred Law, United Nations Harmony with Nature Knowledge Network

Research Fellow (2018-), Earth System Governance Project

Member (2017-), Ecological Law and Governance Association

Current research


"Taking Rights of Nature and Human Rights Seriously: On Balancing Rights in an Earth-centred Legal Paradigm"

The doctoral project explores the relationship(s) between the rights of nature and human rights in jurisdictions that recognise both categories of right-holders. As with the (now relatively widely acknowledged) link between human rights and environmental protection, the rights of nature and human rights are inextricably related. Their interrelationships, however, are both un(der)developed in legal doctrine and un(der)explored in the academic literature. The legal development to recognise the rights of nature gives rise to a host of complex and intriguing questions, including: what happens when you incorporate the rights of nature into a legal system that recognises numerous other rights and right-holders? When rights conflict (as they often do), whose rights prevail and under what circumstances? By studying the growing corpus of laws and judicial decisions that either pronounce on, interpret, or apply the rights of nature, the project seeks answers to such questions.


Context. The development to grant rights to nature is an outright challenge to the (global) governance of human-nature relations, the “sustainable” development agenda (in particular its imbuement with neoliberal ideology), and current responses to the increasingly compelling ecological crisis. The rights of nature are moreover a rejection of pre-existing notions about the boundaries to moral standing and legal capacity, seeking to extend the scope of society and moral concern beyond the human, to include non-human beings and ecological systems as such. To that end, the rights of nature movement employs the same (hierarchical) tools that currently benefit “the empowered” (namely, legal agency and legal rights; as perpetuated inter alia through hegemonic corporate and property rights structures), fundamentally reconstructing them with the aim to shift the balance, and empower nature. While its proponents thus intend for the rights of nature to provide a structural counterweight to established domination structures, a hypothesis in the project is that articulating the legal capacity and rights of nature (in substantive and procedural law) is insufficient in and of itself to advance such an end. The wider structural and institutional inequities that are embedded in legal systems (and in broader social and cultural norms) are likely to extend beyond the normative content of rules that lay down the rights of nature, to infiltrate the manner in which, among other things, the (inter)relationships between the rights of nature and human rights are conceived and managed.

Supervisor: Professor Helle Krunke

Co-supervisor: Professor Louis Kotzé

Primary fields of research

  • Rights of Nature
  • Human rights
  • Legal rights
  • Ecological sustainability
  • Ecological philosophy
  • Ecological law / Earth-centred law / Earth Jurisprudence

ID: 183888108