‘Environmental human rights defenders’ (EHRDs) are individuals or groups who peacefully protect the environment and the human rights that depend upon it from the unsustainable use of natural resources, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Through their determination and perseverance, EHRDs have achieved numerous successes in protecting the Planet and the human rights of all people.
The vital work of EHRDs has been acknowledged, inter alia, by the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 40/11, which recognised ’the positive, important and legitimate role played by human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights as they relate to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.’
Indeed, as EHRDs protect the environment, they also defend their rights, and the rights of their communities, to life, health, water, food, adequate housing, equality, non-discrimination, and work, among many others, as well as the rights of future generations. To do so, they assert their human rights and political freedoms. As John Knox explains,
Ideally, all EHRDs should be able to exercise their human rights to freedom of expression and association, to information, to participation in decision-making, and effective remedies to help to protect the environment – and the rights that depend upon it – from unsustainable exploitation. In this way, the relationship between human rights and the environment should be a virtuous circle: the exercise of human rights helps to protect the environment, and a healthy environment helps to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights.
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