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Healthy environment to be recognised as human right by the UN

Signal of change / Healthy environment to be recognised as human right by the UN

By Katrina Mataciunaite / 21 Aug 2018

The United Nations - the intergovernmental body responsible for international cooperation and order - is set to move in the direction of formally recognising the right to a healthy environment as a human right. The development comes at a time following an emerging awareness of the number of murders, violence and intimidation of activists trying to protect their local environments from activities such as pollution, deforestation and poaching. A pact in alignment with this framework has already been signed by 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries, which legally binds them to investigate and punish those involved in killing individuals whilst protecting the environment.

So what?

Whilst the relationship between “a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment” and human rights is quite obviously interlinked, the new framework submitted by special rapporteur John Knox, if accepted, would formalize this relationship and offer greater protection to those fighting for their environments to be kept safe. It is argued that whilst this is likely to not entirely solve the problem, it would give governments the legal tool and the responsibility to investigate any instances of violence against activists. Is this enough to protect individuals standing up for the environment and risking their lives? Will countries follow through with the justice procedures to make sure those involved in perpetrating violence and murder are punished? Or can more be done to prevent such acts from taking place the first instance?


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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