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Thu, 15 Jun



Expert Workshop: Opening the Black Box of Transnational Ecological Conflicts: Methods, Concepts and Transformations

Venue: Brussels School of Governance (BSoG) at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Roma Room Date: 15 -16 June Format: Hybrid

Expert Workshop:  Opening the Black Box of Transnational Ecological Conflicts: Methods, Concepts and Transformations
Expert Workshop:  Opening the Black Box of Transnational Ecological Conflicts: Methods, Concepts and Transformations

Time & Location

15 Jun 2023, 12:00 – 16 Jun 2023, 15:30

Ixelles, Bd de la Plaine 5, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium, Roma room

About the Event

The ERC Curiae Virides research project investigates how ecological conflicts transform into (ecocentric) lawsuits and whether other options, such as grievance mechanisms are considered by the actors involved.  The project is motivated by an increasing number of lawsuits aiming to fill legal and governance gaps in the protection of ecosystems worldwide. The team has inquired into the character and scope of these lawsuits, which vary depending on their level (local, international, transnational), actors and networks involved, their objectives, and the way ecological conflicts are framed (e.g., climate change, biopiracy, pollution, deforestation, forced displacement, green grabbing).

Our ongoing efforts have resulted in the collection of roughly 2,500 cases of transnational ecological conflicts worldwide, some of which have reached courts or triggered alternative grievance mechanisms. The purpose of this workshop is to discuss and exchange views on our methodological choices and preliminary results for the mutual benefit of all involved experts.

 Register to attend in person  deadline for registration 13 June.

Register to attend online deadline for registration 13 June.

Programme -15 June

Unpacking key concepts: transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits

12h Welcome lunch

13h00 Introduction: Context of the  workshop and presentation of the Curiae Virides project.

Session 1 

The complexity and multiple dimensions of transnational ecological conflicts

Chair: Daniel Alejo, Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

13h05 The multiple impacts  of environmental damage in the life of communities: the case of Mariana – Brazil

Alice  Lopes Fabris, UMR 7206 Eco-Anthropologie, CNRS/Musée national d'histoire   naturelle, Paris and Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit   Brussel

13h20 The Disposal of radioactively contaminated water of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean

Toshio Hase, Universiteit Gent- Faculty of Law

13h35 On the path of ecological war over the waters of the river Nile, legal and economic aspects

Alex Atanasov, British University in Egypt

13h50 Q&A

14h15 Litigation in environmental conflicts: Analysis of the consequences that litigation has for movements and their struggles. Paper: "Slow justice and other   unexpected consequences of litigation in environmental conflicts"[1]

Mariana Walter, visiting Universitat Pompeu Fabra, EJAtlas.

14h30 Transnational ecological conflicts: conceptual and regulatory options that shape strategies to bring them before courts. The approach of the ERC Curiae Virides research project

Liliana Lizarazo Rodriguez, Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

14h45 Q&A

15h10 Cofee Break

Session 2

Expert Discussion: Unpacking key concepts: transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits

Chair: Joao de Freitas, Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit   Brussel

15h30 Key topics around the definition of transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits. Some guiding questions for the discussion:

  • How are they shaped by global value chains or transnational networks? 
  • How to deal with the multiple meanings of terms used by actors who voice their grievances?
  • What role have the principles of environmental   democracy and sustainable development played in transforming and greening human rights or in humanizing environmental dispute/conflicts and (ecocentric) litigation?
  • What are the avenues of dialogue among legal and   other social sciences studying transnational ecological conflict? What are the most visible gaps and limitations for an interdisciplinary approach to   analyze ecological conflicts?
  • How to assess transnational ecological conflicts   globally and to what extent can differences in regulatory burdens among jurisdictions affect the role and   expectations of actors involved in ecological conflicts and   lawsuits?

17h30 Concluding remarks

18h00 Visit to the historic center of Brussels and dinner for presenters and discussants. 

16 June

Methodological challenges to map, gather and process data of complex phenomena

Session 3 

Building databases and mapping dynamic processes

Chair: Ludmilla Cieszkowsky, Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

9h15 Creating datasets by compiling databases: The case of the Regional Integration Agreements Database

Justine Miller Universiteit Gent, Faculty of Economics and United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)

9h30 Mapping socio-ecological conflicts through co-production of knowledge and counter-accounting: Trajectory and relevance of the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (EJAtlas) of the Barcelona Research Group in   Environmental Justice Studies and Political Ecology.

Daniela del Bene Environmental Justice and Political Ecology Research   Group, ICTA (Universitat Autonoma de   Barcelona) and Association for Global Environmental Justice.

9h45 The design of environmental impact assessments of trade agreements: Presentation of the dataset on   environmental impact assessments of trade agreements (DEIATA)[2] addressing how EIAs of trade agreements are constructed and have developed over   time.

Simon Happersberger, Vrije Universiteit Brussel - UNU-CRIS, and Nidhi Nagabhatla UNU-CRIS

10h00 Q&A

10h30 Coffee break

11h00 Insights from the Curiae Virides database: Objectives, design, and methods to collect data on the transformation   of ecological conflicts into lawsuits.

Liliana Lizarazo   Rodriguez, Brussels School of   Governance -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

11h15 Curiae Virides dataset: Preliminary results,   Part I

Max Eriksson, Ludmila Cieszkowsky, Daniel Alejo Brussels School of Governance -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

11h30 Q&A

12h00 Lunch break

13h00 Preliminary results Part II

"OECD National Contact Points, environmental disputes and environmental due diligence: An empirical overview". Empirical   legal analysis of environmental disputes in the context of OECD National   Contact Points.

João Teixeira de Freitas Brussels School of Governance   -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Discussant: Karin Buhmann, Centre for Law, Sustainability & Justice, University of Southern Denmark; and Copenhagen Business School.

Session 4

Expert discussion: key concerns when building databases

Chair: Max Eriksson

13h30 How can different methodological approaches be combined to offer a more holistic understanding of wicked problems on a global scale. Some guiding questions are:

  • What data collection and processing methods are suitable for the   analysis of wicked problems such as transnational ecological conflicts and social   processes such as litigation?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of a quantitative,   database-driven approach when analysing processes and their outcomes?
  • How to deal with the challenges of handling diverse sources (e.g.,   legal and non-legal)?
  • What kind of approaches and methods have been used for addressing gaps   and limitations in the construction and use of databases?
  • Which methods can be used to ensure data quality and accuracy during   data collection and cleaning?
  • Which type of techniques are adequate for sampling for specific   research purposes?


Concluding remarks and the way forward


  • Daniel Alejo is an interdisciplinary PhD Researcher in the Curiae Virides project at the Brussels School of Governance at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In his research, Daniel aims to analyze the socio-legal context and role of stakeholders and ecocentric networks in the transformation of human rights litigations into ecocentric litigation. His research combines different theoretical approaches and uses mixed-methods in the analysis of the empirical data.
  • Alex Atanasov is lecturer at the British University in Egypt. He had his doctorate in law at the University of Toulouse 1 Capitole (France). He also completed a master's degree (LL.M) in law at Durham University and a common law degree in England (Nottingham Law School). He also studied at the University of British Columbia (B.A. major in French and minores in Political Science and Economics) and he holds a master’s degree in International and Comparative European Law from the University of Toulouse 1, Capitole (France).
  • Karin Bauhman Professor and Director, Centre for Law, Sustainability & Justice, University of Southern Denmark; Professor in Business and Human Rights, Copenhagen Business School. Her research focuses on sustainability and responsible business conduct (RBC) with a particular emphasis on social issues, especially climate change mitigation, business responsibilities for human rights, and sustainable finance. She holds a dr.scient.adm. degree based on a study of the evolution of the BHR regime (Roskilde University) and a PhD degree in law (Aarhus University).
  • Milla Cieszkowsky is a PhD Researcher at the Curiae Virides project, at the Brussels School of Governance at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She has Masters degrees in Economics and Law. She is researching the judicial mechanisms and jurisdictions that are most likely to grant effective remedy to victims of environmental damage.
  • Daniela Del Bene is a Political Ecology and Environmental Justice scholar. She is a member of the Environmental Justice and Political Ecology Research Group housed at ICTA (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) and of the recently funded Association for Global Environmental Justice. She is part of the Direction and Coordination Group of the EJAtlas and its main editor between 2014 and 2023. She holds a PhD in Environmental Science from ICTA-UAB, an MSc in Cultural Anthropology (University of Turin), and a Bachelor's in International Relations (University of Triest). Her main areas of research include conflicts related to large-scale renewable energy, hydroelectric dams and river management, socio-ecological transformations and deep ecology and the creation of alternative community energy/energy democracy.
  • Max Eriksson is a postdoctoral researcher at Curia Virides project at the Brussels School of Governance at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Max has a background in quantitative Political Science and is primarily interested in understanding how, when, and why environmental conflicts contribute to tensions between urban and rural interests in society.
  • Simon Happersberger is a PhD researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a PhD fellow at UNU-CRIS and the FWO Research Foundation Flanders. He is interested in the nexus of international trade, environmental sustainability, and political economy. In his PhD he investigates the effectiveness of EU policy instruments on sustainable trade. Simon studied political science and German philology in Goettingen, Paris, Berlin and Cape Town..
  • Toshio Hase is a PhD student at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghent, investigating the nuclear policy of Japan since the Fukushima nuclear accident. He worked as a Professor of the environment, in Tokyo International University between 1995-2019.
  • Liliana Lizarazo Rodriguez is research professor and principal investigator of the ERC project Curiae Virides at the Brussels School of Government, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She obtained her PhD at the Department of Interdisciplinary Study of Law, Private Law and Business Law of the University of Ghent (Belgium). Her areas of interest are Business & Human Rights, law and sustainable development, law and economics and judicial adjudication. She is also assistant professor at the Law and Development Research Group, University of Antwerp (Belgium).
  • Alice Lopes Fabris is a Postdoctoral Researcher at UMR 7206 Eco-Anthropologie, at the CNRS/Musee national d'histoire naturelle investigating topics of ecocide and green criminology.  She is also an Associate Researcher with the Curia Virides research project. She holds a Bachelor Degree from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil) and a PhD from Ecole Normale Superior Paris-Saclay (France). She will start a HORIZON-MSCA post-doctoral project “Mother Earth” at the Brussels School of Government, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, investigating the impact of environmental crimes and human induced disaster on cultural rights of indigenous and afro-indigenous peoples.
  • Justine Miller is a PhD student in Economics at the University of Ghent and the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regionalism (UNU-CRIS). Her research mainly focuses on the impact that the proliferation of trade agreements has on international trade flows. She also works on a research project that tracks the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Flanders. She has a background in Economics and in Geography.
  • Nidhi Nagabhatla is a Senior Fellow and Cluster Coordinator: Nature, Climate, and Health at UNU-CRIS. As a sustainability science specialist and a systems analyst with >23 years of work experience, she has led, coordinated, and implemented transdisciplinary projects in various geographical regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas working with international organizations and leading research and capacity development initiatives. She is also affiliated with Oxford University (UK) and Leibniz University (Germany). More about at
  • João Teixeira de Freitasis a PhD researcher of the Curiae Virides project, at the Brussels School of Government, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research focuses on how corporate risk-based due diligence regulations are being interpreted and applied in the context of transnational ecological conflicts. João has a bachelor's degree in Law from the Portuguese Catholic University and a Master's degree in Transnational Law from Católica Global School of Law / King's College London.
  • Mariana Walter is a Political Ecologist and Ecological Economist engaged scholar. She is currently a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and a member of the Coordination and Direction group of the Environmental Justice Atlas. Her research addresses environmental justice, environmental conflicts, social movements, extractivism, co-production of knowledge and social metabolism. More information:

[1] Paper coauthored with M.Conde, L.Wagner and G.Navas

[2]Dataset developed with G.Rayp, R. Dewitte, and Thi Thuy Linh Buy.

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