Date of Graduation

Fall 12-18-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Dana Zartner

Second Advisor

Stephen Zunes


Local, national and international conventions that protect indigenous sovereignty and their territories, where many of the resources are extracted from by multinational corporations (MNCs) particularly oil, the number one commodity of the world and cause of climate change, continue to be jeopardized because of the lack of a clear international legal framework that can protect them and potentially hold multinationals accountable for their actions. These practices are causing not only environmental issues to the indigenous and surrounding communities, but climate change is in fact, the real human rights issue of the 21st century and it affects everyone. By using the case of Ecuador vs. Chevron, the Sarayaku, and the Yasunit ITT deal brought up by Rafael Correa, and some other brief examples in California, The Artic and Nigeria, I explore the circumstances under which the international community should intervene in domestic affairs, and what the best mechanism to address violations of human rights stemming from environmental degradation would be. The focus re-directs to the Yasuni ITT because first, this is the most biodiverse area in the world and while being open for oil exploration, it exemplifies that this and other crucial world’s sites must be protected, as they are critical for the equilibrium of the Earth; otherwise, global warming will continue to rise. I connect the role of the state, international law and oil multinationals overlapping with rights of nature and the rights of the indigenous from the Amazon rainforest.

I propose that a global intervention response to such violations will be more effective than a domestic one. I demonstrate that law and processes will be more effective if they apply to MNCs as well as states, and provide that the best mechanism to address violations of human rights stemming from environmental degradation would be to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction to such violations, approaching economic advances that cause human rights violations due to environmental issues, as crimes against humanity. This work also fills a gap in the literature in which the relationship of indigenous people with the land and in relation to climate change has been overlooked, under-theorized or approached half-heartedly. States and multinationals must come to terms with the climate change reality and have to act signing an international environmental legally binding agreement to control it and for accountability purposes. The COP21 currently happening must be the year to have this agreement. My work calls for clean and renewable energy, new technologies and innovative sustainable business models and initiatives in the 21st century, away from traditional extractive practices.