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Thu, 15 Jun



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

CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS BY 20 MAY 2023. Venue: Brussels School of Governance (BSoG) at Vrije Universiteit Brussel Date: 15 June (12h) to 16 June (15h30). Format: Hybrid Number of participants: 20-25 experts

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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 CEST – 16 Jun 2023, 15:30 CEST

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

About the Event

The ERC Curiae Virides research project aims at understanding how ecological conflicts transform into ecocentric lawsuits and whether other options, such as grievances 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. So far, the team has been inquiring 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 at stake are framed (e.g., climate change, biopiracy, pollution, deforestation, forced displacement, green grabbing).

​ Our ongoing efforts have resulted in the collection of roughly 2000 cases of ecological conflicts worldwide, some of them having reached courts. At this point, we are looking to discuss and gain valuable external input regarding our preliminary findings, methodological choices and potential ways forward.

Interested in taking part in this discussion?

We welcome expressions of interest to participate in this workshop in which, given the interdisciplinary character of the project, we would like to involve experts from different areas such as law, development studies, economics, environmental science, socio-legal studies and other related disciplines.  The aim is to engage in a constructive dialogue with experts from different spheres of society to advance our understanding of the dynamics of the transformation of transnational ecological conflicts into lawsuits and the methodological challenges going forward. These relevant topics currently represent a challenge to policymakers, courts, civil society organisations and academics.

If you would like to actively participate in this expert workshop, please send a mail to  indicating that you would be interested in participating in one or both days of the workshop. Please give a short description of how your work or research is relevant to these topics and let us know whether you would like to present a paper. In this case, add also an abstract of 400 words outlining the topic, methodology, and how your paper connects with the topics of the workshop. Part of the discussion will be whether there is enough interest to call for papers for a special issue.

The main topics for the discussion are outlined in this preliminary agenda:

15 June: 13h30 – 18h30: Unpacking key concepts: transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits

This part will focus on how to define central concepts such as transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits, and how these conflicts or disputes can be classified from the perspective of their impacts on ecosystems, based on criteria that include, for example, the hazards inherent to certain economic activities and presence or not of an effective risk management plan. Relevant topics include:

· How and when can conflicts and disputes be considered “transnational”?

· How are transnational ecological conflicts shaped by global value chains or transnational networks?

· How to deal with the multiple meanings of terms used by actors who voice their grievances?

· How can risks, hazards and harms be conceptualised and applied to ecological conflicts or disputes?

· How has international law regulated these risks, hazards and harms, and which are the most visible gaps and limitations?

· To what extent are EU regulatory standards suitable to understand and conceptualise these events at a global scale?

· What role have the principles of environmental democracy and sustainable development played in transforming ecological conflicts into (ecocentric) litigation?

· What role have the principles of environmental democracy and sustainable development played in greening human rights?

16 June 9h -12h: Methodological challenges to identify and assess transnational ecological conflicts, and to gather and process data – Building databases.

This session will focus on methodologies that can be used to identify and assess transnational ecological conflicts or disputes on a global scale. How can different methodological approaches such as legal analysis and statistical techniques be combined to offer a more holistic understanding of these topics? Some guiding questions are:

· What methodologies and methods have been used to identify and map transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits? How can they be assessed and used for future research?

· Why are some conflicts overrepresented in news headlines, research, and databases?

· What data collection and processing methods are suitable for the analysis of wicked problems such as ecological conflicts and their transformation into lawsuits?

· What are the advantages and limitations of a quantitative, database-driven approach when analysing transnational ecological conflicts and lawsuits?

· 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 cleaning?

· Which type of techniques are adequate for sampling for specific research purposes?

Final session: 13h30-15h30: Insights from the Curiae Virides database

Based on the more than 2000 conflicts mapped worldwide, preliminary findings will be discussed with the experts. Some aspects that we will address are:

· How we determined a robust population selection criteria.

· The prevalence of specific hazards, harms and risks: to what extent are they likely to reflect biases due to the framing of ecological conflicts?

· Whether the prevalence of certain economic activities reflects the fact that some economic sectors are more prone to harming individuals and ecosystems than others; or is it just a reflection of the emphasis given by the databases and sources consulted?

· Whether there are visible regional trends in terms of risks or hazards involved in the conflicts or disputes.

· Whether regional trends can be identified in the way civic engagement tackles specific economic sectors involved in conflicts.

· To what extent have environmental rights been used to claim more risk management and harm prevention?

· Which types of courts have been used more frequently to escalate conflicts?

· Whether non-state based grievance mechanisms are visible in the transformation of these ecological conflicts into legal actions.


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