UN: World Must Step Up Efforts to Protect Rights to a Healthy Environment

0
2849
Tovel Lake, Italy
Tovel Lake, Italy (Photo: Manuel Venturini).

Fifty years after the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, States must do much more to ensure present and future generations will be able to enjoy the right to a healthy environment, the UN Human Rights Offices for South-East Asia and the Pacific said ahead of World Environment Day.

The ground-breaking 1972 declaration marked the first time UN member States agreed that people have a fundamental right to an environment that permits a life of dignity and well-being. On 2-3 June, another crucial meeting, Stockholm+50, is being held in Sweden to drive further action towards a healthy planet.

While more than three-quarters of the world’s constitutions now include explicit references to environmental rights and the right to a healthy environment was officially recognized by the UN Human Rights Council when it adopted landmark Resolution 48/13 last year, “we urgently need stronger environmental laws and enforcement to protect the very foundations of human life, which are based on a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” said Heike Alefsen, Regional Representative for the UN Human Rights Office for the Pacific.

Stockholm+50 provides an opportunity to reflect on progress, rethink innovative actions and pave the way for sustainable recovery from the global pandemic with the aim of protecting the human right to a safe and healthy environment for all persons, particularly children and youth –  who are among the most impacted by today’s global environmental crisis.

“Globally, we are seeing young people take to the streets and the courtroom to demand stronger climate action from governments, but their voices alone cannot create the change we need to see,” said Cynthia Veliko, Regional Representative for the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia.

“Concrete and meaningful legislative and policy actions are urgently needed to address this crisis,” Veliko said. “A broad range of human rights are increasingly being violated as a result of inaction by States to safeguard against the continued and rapid demise of our environment. States have human rights obligations that are linked to promoting and protecting a healthy environment, which requires upholding the principles of participation and non-discrimination as well as redress and reparations for those adversely affected.”

Public participation and the inclusion of youth and civil society actors will also be critical to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

“Fifty years after the Stockholm Declaration, the steady degradation of our environment has increased at a disturbing pace,” Alefsen said. “It is imperative that States act now to ensure that the rights of both present and future generations are upheld.”