Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

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Linking Human Rights and Climate Change

A lawyer trained in international relations, Sébastien Jodoin (Forestry & Environmental Studies) is seeking to shed light on the role that human rights norms play in the governance of climate change.

Using approaches and methodologies drawn from law, political science, and social psychology, his research is closely aligned with the mandate of the Governance, Environment and Markets Initiative at Yale (GEM), which is led by his adviser, Professor Ben Cashore. GEM brings together faculty members and graduate students from Yale and beyond to pursue cutting-edge social science research that will ameliorate global environmental challenges and promote sustainability.

Sebastien Jodoin in Rwanda

Sébastien’s dissertation has three main components. At the international level, he is writing a social history of the growing influence of human rights obligations, principles, and language in the climate change negotiations from 1992 to the present. In this part of the project, he assesses the ways human rights have supported, guided, and constrained policy-making that involves climate change. At the national level, he considers the implications of integrating the principles and considerations of human rights into the climate change strategies, laws, and frameworks of a number of developed and developing countries. His focus here is on the ability of human rights norms to extend beyond the specific context of climate change and lead to broader social and political changes. At the local level, Sébastien’s work examines the contribution of rights-based approaches to forest conservation projects in developing countries. In particular, he is investigating whether the integration of human rights standards in the design, implementation, and monitoring of forest conservation projects can generate feelings of legitimacy among local populations and thus improve conservation outcomes.

Sébastien’s research on integrating human rights into national and local climate change policies and programs will take him back to a region he knows well: East Africa. He was previously posted in Tanzania when he worked with the international tribunal established to prosecute the Rwanda genocide, and he has travelled extensively throughout the region. His fieldwork will provide him with an opportunity to get to know a different side of this region. For his national level research, he will be interviewing policy-makers, experts, and stakeholders from Tanzania, Zambia, and Kenya. On the local level, he will study an innovative forest conservation project in Eastern Tanzania that seeks to work with communities and enhance their rights to participate in and benefit from the sustainable management of the forests on which they depend.

Sébastien was recently awarded two prestigious external fellowships to pursue this research: one from the Trudeau Foundation and another from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Worth $180,000 over three years, the Trudeau Scholarship provides Sébastien with a generous stipend as well as a dedicated allowance for fieldwork and conference travel. The scholarship also partners him with a mentor in public policy and embeds him in a community of scholars, policy-makers, and leading figures from politics, media, business and other fields committed to fostering and applying academic research of compelling public concern.

Sébastien’s research builds on his on-going legal and policy work in climate change, human rights, and development. Since 2005, he has participated in international climate change negotiations with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, where he serves as the lead counsel of its climate change program. In this capacity, he has also worked with the governments of developing countries and aid agencies to mainstream human rights within climate change programs and has most recently contributed to policy research on climate-compatible development through the Climate Development Knowledge Network.

Before coming to Yale, Sébastien earned law degrees from McGill University and master's degrees in international law and international relations from the London School of Economics and the University of Cambridge. He also worked at the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Centre for International Justice.