The right to a clean and healthy environment was left out of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and therefore the two Covenants) because it was drafted before the advent of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s. However, over recent years, there has been a growing interest and movement, at national, regional and international levels, to correct this oversight, and to declare a universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Over a hundred national constitutions now recognise the right, as do many regional human rights agreements. At UN-level, the first UN Special Rapporteur for human rights and environment, John Knox, ended his term by calling for States to recognise the right to the environment at international level. This call has since been supported by the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Linked with this issue, the international community has also become far more aware, over recent years, about the plight and importance of those individuals working at the interface of human rights and environmental protection – namely environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs).
Under this project, URG will work with those States determined to push, in 2020-2021, for the universal recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. It will do so by helping to make the case that such a recognition would have real-world practical value – both in terms of better protecting and promoting individual human rights, and in terms of protecting and conserving the natural environment. At the same time, URG will continue its work to support and raise awareness about the vital work of EHRDs, and to better protect them from risk.
Read the outcome of the academic conference ‘Is it time for universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment?’ here.
Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs): risking their today for our tomorrowBy John H. Knox, Special Rapporteur on the human rights and the environment
Human rights, climate change and cross-border displacement: the role of the international human rights community in contributing to effective and just solutionsBy Jane McAdam (University of New South Wales) and Marc Limon (URG)
Towards 2026 - Perspectives on the future of the Human Rights Council (Glion VI)By Universal Rights Group
#The time is now - The case for universal recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environmentBy David Boyd, John Knox, Marc Limon
News and resources
Launch event of the report #TheTimeIsNow – The case for universal recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment
- High-level opening remarks by H.E. Mr Dr Mahendra Reddy, Minister of the Enviromnent of Fiji
- High-level opening remarks by H.E. Mr Rodolfo Solano Quirós, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica
- High-level opening remarks by H.E. Ms Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High-Commissioner for Human Rights
- High-level opening remarks by H.E. Ms Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF
- High-level opening remarks by H.E. Ms Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP
Academic conference RHE – final report
Letter on the right to environment
URG oral statement on the right to environment during HRC45
Oral statement delivered by Fiji during HRC46
A joint commitment by Heads of UN Entities on the right to a healthy environment
Joint Intervention on behalf of Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland: Expert Seminar on the UN recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment: past developments and future prospects
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