AIDA applauds recognition of healthy environment as a universal human right
Foto: Will van Wingerden en Unsplash.
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28 July 2022
The decision adopted by the UN General Assembly is a call for States to recognize that the defense of the environment is essential for existence on the planet. The historic resolution strengthens longtime efforts to guarantee this right in practice.
New York, USA. In a landmark resolution, the UN General Assembly recognized a safe, healthy, clean and sustainable environment as a universal human right. Since this right was absent from then Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the decision marks a milestone for international human rights law.
The resolution endorses language similar to that proposed in October 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council, which issued a draft resolution in June to the 193 members of the General Assembly. Sponsored by Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment was unanimously approved today, by a vote of 161-0.
Liliana Avila, senior attorney of AIDA’s Human Rights and Environment Program, responds:
"The United Nations recognition is a very important call for States to recognize that the environment involves essential elements without which our existence on the planet would not be possible.
Most of the Constitutions in the continent already recognize the healthy environment as a right and citizens claim it daily through different mechanisms. The step taken today undoubtedly strengthens these efforts and advances us towards the construction of societies where this right is a reality."
Gladys Martinez de Lemos, Executive Director, states:
“Today marks a historic moment, one that enables citizens to demand the creation of measures to guarantee in practice a right that is now universally recognized. At AIDA we celebrate this new tool and reaffirm our 25-year commitment to protecting a healthy environment as a fundamental human right.
The UN recognition represents a hope for justice for those who suffer from environmental degradation around the world—people like the residents of La Oroya, Peru, who have for decades breathed polluted air; families in Central America, forced to migrate due to the impacts of the climate crisis; coastal communities in the Caribbean who lost their homes due to the destruction of mangroves and reefs, natural barriers against storms and hurricanes; and the thousands of environmental defenders risking their lives to protect their territories."
As a regional organization, AIDA would like to highlight the fact that a Latin American nation, Costa Rica, has led the proposal for recognition before the General Assembly. Its role was key to the result we are celebrating today.
We also highlight the hard work of civil society organizations, social movements, local communities and indigenous peoples to promote this recognition.
A healthy environment – recognized as a right by more than 150 States around the world – is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights. Its recognition as a universal human right can lead to more effective laws and policies, and can help to empower local communities in the protection of their territory.