The Right to a Healthy Environment goes to Geneva

The UN Human Rights Council’s 48th Session commenced today, on 13 September 2021, in Geneva. At this session, which will last until 8 October, a “Core Group” of States – Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland – are advocating for the adoption of a UN Resolution recognising the right to a healthy environment. Over 60 governments have co-sponsored the Core Group’s call for the UN to recognise this human right.  

The joint statement by the Core Group, which can be found here, notes the linkages between human rights and the environment, and the fact that more than 155 countries now recognize the right to a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment in some form. They note the global consensus on the degradation of the environment and its consequences on human life. Citing human dignity, non-discrimination and the well-being of future generations, they call for an ‘open, transparent and inclusive dialogue with all States and interested stakeholders’ on the right’s potential international recognition.

This development stands against the background of a call for the recognition of the human right to a healthy environment signed by over 1,100 civil society organisations and Indigenous Peoples’ groups.

In a similar vein, there is currently an initiative in the Council of Europe to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in a new Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Similar efforts to enshrine this right in the ECHR have, however, failed in the past.

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