Clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Council

UNEP executive director calls on UN member states to consider passing a resolution on right to a clean environment, on the lines of UN Human Rights Council

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 08 October 2021
Photo: @UNEP / Twitter

The United Nations Human Rights Council October 8, 2021, unanimously voted for recognising a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right in Geneva, Switzerland.

If recognised by all, the right would the first of its kind in more than 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Inger Anderson, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), hailed the development in a statement.

She also called on UN member states to consider a similar resolution at the General Assembly.

The right to a clean environment was rooted in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, Anderson noted. It was greatly encouraging to see it formally recognised at the global level five decades later, she added.

Over 13,000 civil society organisations and indigenous peoples’ groups, more than 90,000 children worldwide, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and private sector stakeholders had campaigned relentlessly for the right, Anderson said.

The resolution emphasises “the rights to life, liberty and security of human rights defenders working in environmental matters, referred to as environmental human rights defenders.”

Environmental defenders across the globe are subject to constant physical attacks, detentions, arrests, legal action and smear campaigns.

Some 200 environmental defenders have been murdered in 2020 alone. Anderson said the UNEP would deepen its commitment to protecting and promoting environmental human rights defenders in the coming months.

She added that her organisation expected the resolution to embolden governments, legislators, courts and citizen groups in pursuing substantial elements of the Common Agenda for renewed solidarity.

The Agenda was presented last month by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Anderson also called for these parties to pursue the 2020 Call to Action on Human Rights.

“Let no one be left behind, as we forge a healthier planet with less conflict and more space for youth to be heard,” she said.

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