Right to a healthy environment

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Slash and burn deforestation along the Rio Xingu, Brazil endangers both indigenous rights to the land as well as the larger right to a healthy environment.

The right to a healthy environment or the right to a supportable and healthy environment is a human right. It is openly supported by human rights organizations and environmental organizations. The purpose is to protect the ecological systems that provide human health.[1][2][3] The right was accepted by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It was during its 48th session in October 2021 in HRC/RES/48/13.[4] The right is often based on the human rights defense by environmental defenders. Examples include land defenders, water protectors and indigenous rights activists.

Connections with other rights[change | change source]

The right is connected with other health-focused human rights. Examples include the human right to water and cleanliness, right to food and right to health.[5] The right to a healthy environment uses a human rights propose to protect the quality of environment. This addresses the results of environmental harm upon individual humans. It is as opposed to the more traditional point of view of environmental regulation. It focuses on results to other states or the environment itself.[6] Another point of view to environmental protection is the rights of nature. It tries to extend the rights enjoyed by humans as well as teamworks to nature.[7]

Role of the state[change | change source]

The right creates a duty of the state. The duties include regulation and enforcement of environmental laws, control of pollution, and justice and protections for communities harmed by environmental problems.[6] The right to a healthy environment has been an important right for creating environmental legal examples for climate change litigation and other environmental issues.[8][9]

International Approaches[change | change source]

In the past, there were major United Nations' human rights tools like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These do not recognize the right to a healthy environment.[3] The 1972 Stockholm Declaration recognizes the right but is not a legally binding document. The 1992 Rio Declaration does not use the language of human rights. However, it says that individuals shall have access to information on environmental matters, participation in decision-making and access to justice.[10] The currently proposed UN resolution is the "Global Pact for the Environment". If it is adopted, it would be the first UN human rights instrument to include the right to a healthy environment.[11]

Recognition[change | change source]

Over 150 states in the UN have independently recognized the right in some form through legislation, legal action, constitutional law, treaty law or other legal authority.[5] The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, American Convention on Human Rights, Escazu Agreement, Arab Charter on Human Rights, and ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights each include a right to a healthy environment.[3][12][13] There are other human rights frameworks such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They refer to environmental issues as they relate to the framework's focus, in this case children's rights.[12]

UN responses[change | change source]

UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights and the Environment John H. Knox (2012–2018) and David R. Boyd (2018–) have recommended on how to formalize these rights in international law.[14] This was signed on back by many committees at the UN level. Besides, it was also backed by many local legal communities such as the New York City Bar,[15] in 2020.

Importance[change | change source]

The right to a healthy environment is the most important to the international approach to human rights and climate change.[16][17] The effects of climate change on human rights are presented by OHCHR in a fact sheet with the most frequently asked questions on the subject.[18]

Related Pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "The Case for a Right to a Healthy Environment". Human Rights Watch. 2018-03-01. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  2. "The Time is Now for the UN to Formally Recognize the Right to a Healthy and Sustainable Environment". Center for International Environmental Law. 2018-10-25. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Knox, John H. (2020-10-13). "Constructing the Human Right to a Healthy Environment". Annual Review of Law and Social Science. 16 (1): 79–95. doi:10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-031720-074856. ISSN 1550-3585. S2CID 216476059.
  4. "Ghana's criminal justice and mental health practices need critical attention to be more humane". www.ohchr.org.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "OHCHR | Good practices on the right to a healthy environment". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Boyle, Alan (2012-08-01). "Human Rights and the Environment: Where Next?". European Journal of International Law. 23 (3): 613–642. doi:10.1093/ejil/chs054. ISSN 0938-5428.
  7. Halpern, Gator. "Rights to Nature vs Rights of Nature". Archived from the original on 2021-01-17. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  8. Atapattu, Sumudu (2018), Knox, John H.; Pejan, Ramin (eds.), "The Right to a Healthy Environment and Climate Change: Mismatch or Harmony?", The Human Right to a Healthy Environment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 252–268, ISBN 978-1-108-42119-5, retrieved 2021-02-10
  9. Varvastian, Sam (2019-04-10). "The Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment in Climate Change Litigation". Rochester, NY. SSRN 3369481. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. "UNEP - Principle 10 and the Bali Guideline". 26 April 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Knox, John (April 2019). "The Global Pact for the Environment: At the crossroads of human rights and the environment". RECIEL. (28) 1: 40–47. doi:10.1111/reel.12287. S2CID 159049214.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Shelton, Dinah (2002). Human Rights, Health & Environmental Protection: Linkages in Law & Practice. Health and Human Rights Working Paper Series No 1. World Health Organization.
  13. "Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean" (PDF). CEPAL. 4 March 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  14. "OHCHR | Right to a healthy and sustainable environment". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  15. "Human Right to a Healthy Environment: UN Formal Recognition". nycbar.org. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  16. Cooper, Nathan. "How the new human right to a healthy environment could accelerate New Zealand's action on climate change". The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  17. "Why having a clean and healthy environment is a human right". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  18. "Frequently Asked Questions on Human Rights and Climate Change" (PDF). ohchr.org. Retrieved 2021-05-07.