The right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment – what does it mean for states, for rights-holders, and for nature?

The eighth Glion Human Rights Dialogue (Glion VIII), organised by the Governments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and the Universal Rights Group (URG), in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, and Thailand, was held on 16-17 May 2022 and focused on the topic: ‘The right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment – what does it mean for States, for rights-holders, and for nature?’ The Glion VIII retreat was preceded by three preparatory policy dialogues.

On 8 October 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 48/13 on ‘the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment’, and on 28 July 2022, the General Assembly adopted resolution 76/300 recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Against this background, and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, Glion VIII and its preparatory policy dialogues sought to provide an informal and neutral space for all key stakeholders (including governments, UN officials, independent experts, environmental human rights defenders, and civil society) to consider questions such as the scope of this newly recognised right, its meaning for States, the role of the Council and the General Assembly in recognising new rights, and the way rights-holders around the world can claim this right.

As with all Glion Human Rights Dialogues, the informal and inclusive discussions at Glion VIII, held under the Chatham House rule, aimed to generate new thinking and ideas, enhance mutual understanding, and bridge differences. Finally, in focusing on areas where a ‘rights-based approach’ could bring important benefits, the retreat aimed to complement existing initiatives in this area. In this context, it adopted a practical approach premised on helping States use human rights obligations, commitments, and principles to improve national policies and practices.

This Glion VIII report is divided into three parts.

Part one looks at questions around the scope, international legal meaning, and human rights guarantees of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

Part two provides reflections on the impact of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, where it is already recognised at national level, on domestic environmental/climate laws, policies, and jurisprudence, as well as on the protection of environmental human rights defenders.

Finally, part three considers the various implications of UN recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for relevant stakeholder groups including governments, civil society, businesses, UN Country Teams, and international and regional human rights mechanisms.

Each part of the report includes a brief situation analysis, followed by a summary of the main issues discussed and ideas put forward at Glion VIII.

Other relevant documents to the Glion process can be found below:

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