UN declares healthy environment a human right

by | Aug 18, 2022 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N.

On July 28, 2022, the UN general assembly recognized the right to water and sanitation through its resolution. It stated that clean drinking water and sanitation “are essential to the realization of all human rights”.

Every person on the planet has the right to live in a clean, healthy environment, declared the United Nations (UN) in a historic resolution. Climate change and environmental degradation are the most critical threats awaiting humanity in the future, the resolution emphasized.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said in a statement:

“The resolution will help to reduce environmental injustices and protection gaps. It can empower people, especially those in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous people”.

“Every person, everywhere, has the right to eat, breathe and drink without poisoning their bodies,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

In response to this, governments across the world have changed their laws and regulations related to water and sanitation.

So, the right to a healthy environment is one of the essential requirements for leading a dignified life. People have to hold their governments accountable to get these rights delivered.

The declaration adopted by over 160 UN member nations, including India, is not legally binding. But it will encourage countries to incorporate the right to a healthy environment.

The declaration sheds light on almost all the rights connected to the health of our environment.

“This right was not included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. So, this is a historic resolution that will change the very nature of international human rights law,” said David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment.

Some 50 years ago, the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm concluded with a resolution placing environmental issues at the global forefront.

Today, over 176 countries have adopted environmental framework laws on the basis of it.

It is a message to one billion children at extremely high risk of the impacts of a changed climate: a healthy environment is your right. No one can take away nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate from you.

“This has life-changing potential in a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year,” said Boyd. It will spark constitutional changes and stronger environmental laws, with positive implications for air quality, clean water, healthy soil, sustainably produced food, green energy, climate change, biodiversity and the use of toxic substances.


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