1. Home
  2. News

United Nations Declares Healthy Environment a Human Right

The resolution will spark environmental action and provide people all over the world with necessary safeguards," said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director

Shivam Dwivedi
Human health and well-being are inextricably linked to environmental conditions!!
Human health and well-being are inextricably linked to environmental conditions!!

The United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment, which supporters say is an important step toward reversing the natural world's alarming decline.

Climate change and environmental degradation were named as two of the most pressing threats to humanity's future in a resolution passed Thursday morning at UN headquarters in New York City. It urged states to increase their efforts to ensure that their citizens have access to a ‘Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment.’

The resolution is not legally binding on the United Nations' 193 member states. However, supporters hope that it will have a cascading effect, prompting countries to include the right to a healthy environment in national constitutions and regional treaties, and encouraging states to implement those laws. Supporters argue that this would provide environmental activists with more ammunition to challenge environmentally destructive policies and projects.

"This resolution sends a message that nobody - at least not without a fight - can take nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate away from us."- Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director

The agreement comes as the world grapples with what Andersen refers to as a "triple planetary crisis" of climate change, loss of nature and biodiversity, and pollution and waste. The new resolution stated that if not addressed, these issues could have disastrous consequences for people all over the world, particularly the poor and women and girls.

The resolution by the General Assembly comes after a flurry of similar legal reforms at the international and national levels. The UN Human Rights Council declared access to a "clean, healthy, and sustainable environment" to be a human right in April.

Earlier this year, Latin American and Caribbean countries pledged increased protections for so-called environmental defenders, including indigenous peoples fighting logging, mining, and oil exploration in protected areas. According to reports, 227 environmental activists will be killed in 2021. In addition, New York state passed a constitutional amendment last year that guarantees citizens the right to a "healthy environment."

These changes occur as environmental activists increasingly use the law to compel governments to address pressing environmental issues such as climate change. Declaring a healthy environment a human right at the national level would allow people to challenge environmentally destructive policies under human rights legislation, which is well-defined in many countries.

"These resolutions may appear abstract, but they are a catalyst for action, and they empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable in a very powerful way," said David Boyd, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, prior to the vote.

Andersen cited a similar decree from 2010 that recognized the right to sanitation and clean water in the days before the General Assembly resolution was passed. This, she claims, prompted countries all over the world to include drinking water protections in their constitutions. She believes the most recent resolution has the same historic potential.

"The resolution will spark environmental action and provide people all over the world with necessary safeguards," Andersen said. "It will assist people in standing up for their right to breathe clean air, have access to safe and sufficient water, eat healthy food, live in healthy ecosystems, and play in non-toxic environments."

“Public health, water, and food security, migration, peace, and security all depend on a healthy environment. It's a moral issue. We have a huge obligation to maintain it pristine and safe.”

International No Diet Day 2024 Quiz Take a quiz
Share your comments
FactCheck in Agriculture Project

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters