Through rigorous classroom and real life training, the EarthRights School continues to foster innovative and empowered earth rights leaders. Many alumni go on to establish and lead their own organizations upon graduation.
The EarthRights School prepares the next generation of earth rights defenders to draw on the power of their communities to protect their rights, resources and livelihoods. Most students come from indigenous and rural communities and have experienced environmental and human rights abuses firsthand in their own communities or through their organizations. They are highly motivated to address these issues through organizing, campaigning and legal advocacy.
Our one-of-a-kind school curriculum provides intensive training in human rights, environmental justice, community organizing, gender mainstreaming, campaigning and international legal advocacy. We also provide physical, legal and digital security training to ensure that our students and alumni can address potential security threats they might face because of their work.
Our students are human rights and environmental activists from across the Mekong region and have the opportunity to learn from local and international experts in the environmental and human rights fields. Once they join our alumni network, many of these students go on to lead their communities in fighting human rights and environmental abuses.
The courses included in our unique curriculum employ a combination of theoretical and experiential learning, including fieldwork and site visits.
The EarthRights School first began in 1999 on the Thai-Myanmar border and focused solely on equipping civil society leaders from Myanmar, as well as from refugee camps and villages along Myanmar’s borders, with the knowledge and skills to defend and promote earth rights in their communities.
In 2006, we expanded our school curriculum adding a second EarthRights School, similar in model to the first but open to civil society leaders throughout the Mekong region. The curriculum focused on transboundary issues that affect the entire region, including Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, with a special emphasis on hydropower dams on the Mekong River.
In 2017, ERI combined these two EarthRights Schools into one, seeing this as necessary for our staff and outside experts to be able to share more deeply with our students, to integrate common elements of the curriculum and to develop stronger connections with local experts and instructors. EarthRights School students also began the school session, for the first time, at the Mitharsuu Center for Leadership and Justice, a sustainable, environmentally-friendly building that houses ERI’s Mekong offices and the EarthRights School. It is a hub for strategic organizing, movement building, and leadership development for earth rights activists in Southeast Asia.
ERI also helped run the Amazon School for Human Rights and the Environment from 2001-2005, and works with several partner schools in South East Asia.