[ Earth Graphic ][ Burns H. Weston ]
[ Earth Graphic ]
[ Earth Graphic ]

Professor Weston maintains a rigorous schedule. The following represent his current list of major professional activities.

Commons Law Project (CLP)

The CLP is an ecological governance initiative of Professor Weston and Amhherst-based commons scholar David Bollier in cooperation with The University of Iowa College of Law and UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR). Advocating commons and rights driven ecological governance, its goal is to recover and refurbish the law of the commons from Roman times, the Magna Carta, and points before and since to put forward a new contemporary law of the ecological commons that, grounded in human rights, can be the basis for serious policy advocacy, prescription, and application (including litigation).

This goal is the focus of the CLP's first major work, a book entitled Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights, and the Law of the Commons, published by Cambridge University Press on January 17, 2013. The publisher summarizes the book as follows: "The vast majority of the world’s scientists agree: We have reached a point in history where we are in grave danger of destroying Earth's life-sustaining capacity. But our attempts to protect natural ecosystems are increasingly ineffective because our very conception of the problem is limited; we treat 'the environment' as its own separate realm, taking for granted prevailing but outmoded conceptions of economics, national sovereignty, and international law. Green Governance is a direct response to the mounting calls for a paradigm shift in the way humans relate to the natural environment. It opens the door to a new set of solutions by proposing a compelling new synthesis of environmental protection based on broader notions of economics and human rights and on commons-based governance. Going beyond speculative abstractions, the book proposes a new architecture of environmental law and public policy that is as practical as it is theoretically sound."

To this end, the book recommends political action at all levels from local to global a Universal Covenant Affirming A Human Right to Commons- and Rights-based Governance of Earth’s Natural Wealth and Resources. The Covenant calls upon “all citizens, organizations, and governments of the world to commit themselves to recovering the Earth and humanity’s shared inheritance and future creations”; and to do so with a keen sense of urgency about “taking decisive, collective action to transform existing systems and structures of ecological governance so as to reduce climate change, loss of biodiversity, and other severe threats to Earth’s life-giving and life-sustaining capacity.” The Covenant is freely available for downloading and widespread dissemination and use from the Commons Law Project (CLP).

The work of the CLP has not stopped with the Green Governance book, however. Picking up where the book leaves off, and together with David Bollier and British human rights and environmental law scholar Anna Grear (Cardiff University), Professor Weston is currently embarked on a CLP project aimed at bringing "green governance" principles to bear on large-scale ecological systems and resources (e.g., the atmosphere, the oceans, great lakes and other major fresh water systems, glacial watersheds, forests, prairies, etc.). It is a project that is planned to engage many multidisciplinary "out of the box" scholars and practitioners.

For more information about the CLP and Green Governance, including early praise for the book ("bold," "breakthrough," "brilliant," "game-changer," "important," "indispensable," "landmark," "practical," "profound," "visionary"), click on Commons Law Project.

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), founded in 1999, is a direct outgrowth of a year-long University commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It reflects the University's commitment to a permanent presence for human rights issues and action on the University's Iowa City campus, its surrounding community, and beyond.

Initiated by a multidisciplinary group of faculty, the Center emphasizes a diverse array of cross-disciplinary activities, designed to consider, constructively and critically, the problems and prospects of human rights at home and abroad, now and in the future. These activities include:

Scholarly commentary: research and writing (books, articles, opinion editorials, etc.), faculty seminars, student-faculty colloquia, scholarly conferences etc.;

Educational innovation: university curricular development, new K-12 instructional materials, K-12 teacher training (locally and abroad), externships/internships (with select human rights NGOs, international institutions, and governmental offices) etc.;

Artistic advocacy and expression: fiction and poetry readings visual displays, films, theatrical performances, musical offerings, etc.;

Community outreach (local, state, regional): distinguished speaker and activist-in-residence programs, conferences and symposia, radio/TV broadcasts, artistic events (visual displays, films, theatrical performances, musical offerings, etc.);

Direct action: safe haven sanctuary (for scholars and activists at risk from war and other human rights abuse, seeking opportunity for reflection and renewal), fact-finding/monitoring and reporting, legal and political advocacy, legal and medical assistance (in cooperation with university/civic groups and NGOs).

The UICHR also bestows an annual Courage of Conviction Award and other annual prizes for human rights scholarship and activism to deserving students, faculty, and off-campus persons and groups.

While other universities have established human rights centers and programs, the Center for Human Rights at The University of Iowa is innovative in several ways. First, though naturally influenced by the disciplines of law and politics, it does not limit itself to a traditional legal/political approach and counts among its Executive Council and Society of Center Fellows many faculty from throughout the University. As a result of this transdisciplinary design, it integrates anthropological, educational, environmental, geographic, historical, medical, journalistic, literary, philosophical, psychological, sociological, and even artistic as well as legal and political perspectives into its diverse agenda. Second, the Center makes a self-conscious effort to involve students in its activities and to reach out to local citizens and citizen groups not officially associated with The University of Iowa to facilitate its ultimate mission, the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad. Finally, believing that the broad dissemination of information about human rights is central to the advancement of such rights, the Center seeks regularly to inform both human rights specialists and the general public about its activities and about human rights issues and developments generally.

Professor Weston was the founding Director of the UI Center for Human Rights during the period 1999-2004 and, in this capacity, administered its various activities in consultation with the Center's Executive Board and with the assistance of a Deputy Director, a structure that continues to the present day. He currently serves as lifetime UICHR Senior Scholar. The Center is headquartered at 1120 University Capitol Centre, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242 USA. Telephone: + 1-319-335-3900; Fax: + 1-319-335-0280; E-mail: uichr@uiowa.edu. For further details, see UI Center for Human Rights.

The University of Iowa College of Law International & Comparative Law Program (ICLP)

In keeping with its educational mission of encouraging the acquisition of both broad social awareness and technical professional competence, The University of Iowa College of Law offers a strong program of study in the rapidly expanding fields of international and comparative law. It does so for essentially three reasons: (1) virtually any lawyer in this era of accelerating global interdependence is likely to be confronted by problems that require knowledge and understanding of international law and foreign legal systems; (2) as professionals and community leaders, lawyers often are called upon to influence, both directly and indirectly, the theory and conduct of United States foreign policy; and (3) the study of international and comparative law affords unique insight into the nature of law and legal process and therefore helps to establish necessary theoretical foundations upon which superior lawyering of all kinds depends.

In pro bono advisory capacity, drawing upon his past experience as Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies responsible for the College of Law's International and Comparative Law Program (ICLP), Professor Weston, together with his colleagues, continues to help the Program earn its nationally and internationally recognized reputation for the quality of its instructional programs, which concentrates its international and comparative law studies in both Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree curricula. The ICLP's curriculum is buttressed by a substantial international, comparative, and foreign law library collection (90,000 + volumes). It is enhanced, too, by an innovative student-faculty journal entitled Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems (TLCP) and an active speakers program under the auspices of the student-run Iowa Society of International Law and Affairs (ISILA). Formerly faculty advisor to both TLCP and the ISILA, Professor Weston continues to assist these activities on an informal basis.

Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI)

The CLI is a former externally funded joint project of the Vermont Law School Environmental Law Center (VLS-ELC) and The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). Its overall purpose was to research and promote legal doctrines, principles, and rules appropriate for recognition by courts, legislatures, administrative agencies, and private sector institutions to safeguard present and future generations from harms resulting from global climate change (especially global warming). It took as given that climate change exists and affirms that lawyers have a vital role to play in both public and private discourse and action relative to it. In March 2008, the CLI issued a widely collaborative policy paper co-authored by Professor Weston and VLS Professor Tracy Bach and titled Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice, complete with sixteen innovative recommendations for legal action. A limited supply is available upon request. Professor Weston was the CLI's Director.

Procedural Aspects of International Law Monograph Series (PAIL)

The Procedural Aspects of International Law (PAIL) Monograph Series is an ongoing activity of the Procedural Aspects of International Law Institute, a nonprofit organization that is devoted to furthering the observance of international law through research, consulting, and publishing monographs and other educational materials. Established in 1965 by academic lawyers, government officials, and private practitioners, the PAIL Institute has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Its activities include work in areas as diverse as international claims settlements, a draft convention on terrorism, the concept of autonomy in international law, the classification of treaties and other transboundary agreements, the reform of international organization, and the international protection of human rights. The twenty-three volumes that presently comprise the PAIL Monograph Series represent the only continuously edited series of books on international law in the United States. Formerly the Editor of the Monograph Series, Profesor Weston continues to assist with these activities on an informal basis.


Copyright © 1998-2015 by Burns H. Weston. All rights reserved.