The right to a healthy and sustainable environment

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.

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