United Nations Environment Programme executive director Erik Solheim and special rapporteur on human rights and the environment John H Knox on Friday urged the United Nations to recognise the human right to a healthy environment.
‘We believe that the historic moment has arrived for the United Nations to recognise the human right to a healthy environment at the global level,’ they said in a statement ahead of the World Environment Day that falls on June 5.
John H Knox will submit a report to the UN General Assembly on this to be presented in October 2018, according to a message received from Geneva.
They said the interdependence between human rights and the environment has become undeniable.
A healthy environment is necessary for the full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and development.
At the same time, the exercise of human rights such as information, participation, remedy, and freedom of expression and association, is critical for the protection of a healthy environment.
‘Our knowledge of new threats is growing - for example, the rising tide of plastic pollution demands greater attention and an effective response,’ they said.
At the same time, they said, those who promote and protect the environment are at an increasing risk, with an average of four environmental defenders killed every week, somewhere around the world.
To achieve sustainable development, it’s necessary for us to recognise the fundamental importance of protecting the environment and of the rights that depend on it, the statement said.
Over 100 states have already included the right to a healthy and sustainable environment in their national constitutions.
Many more have recognised it in legislation or in regional agreements. The right is also understood to be inherent in other human rights, including rights to life, health and an adequate standard of living.
The UN Human Rights Council has adopted resolutions emphasising the interdependence of human rights and the environment, and in March last renewed the mandate of the special rapporteur for another three years.
At the same time, UN Environment announced a new Environmental Rights Initiative, which will promote rights-based approaches in environmental policy.
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