The well-being of all humans is deeply intertwined with the environment they inhabit. A secure, clean, and sustainable environment is fundamental for the enjoyment of various human rights such as life, health, and access to necessities like food and water. Environmental issues, such as climate change, deforestation, and pollution, disproportionately affect marginalized populations, exacerbating poverty and inequality. Climate change-induced natural disasters displace communities, leading to violations of their right to shelter and security. Pollution from industrial activities contaminates water sources, impacting the right to health, while deforestation often infringes upon indigenous peoples’ land rights and cultural heritage. Moreover, climate change intensifies conflicts over scarce resources, undermining the right to peace and security.
Conversely, respecting human rights is essential for effective environmental protection. Engaging communities and respecting their rights to participation, information, and consent are crucial for sustainable development. Indigenous knowledge, often rooted in harmonious relationships with nature, can offer valuable solutions for environmental challenges. Empowering communities to protect their environment fosters a sense of ownership, encouraging sustainable practices.
Efforts have been made to integrate the protection of human rights with environmental conservation, evident in the creation of the United Nations human rights and environment mandate in 2012 and its extension in 2018. The right to a healthy environment is also increasingly being recognized in national and international legal frameworks. Some countries have constitutional provisions explicitly guaranteeing the right to a healthy environment, emphasizing the growing global awareness of this fundamental right.
To ensure a just and sustainable future, it is imperative to promote environmental policies that respect and protect human rights. This involves recognizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental rights and working collaboratively to address environmental challenges while upholding the dignity and well-being of all people.
To learn more about Human Rights and the Environment through the RWI collection, check out the following suggested titles:
Reflections on earth trusteeship : mother earth and a new 21st-century governance paradigm / edited by Justin Sobion (Ed.) and Hans van Willenswaard (Ed.),
On the RWI shelf 86 REF
From the publisher: This publication comprises a rich diversity of scholarly and creative contributions from Right Livelihood Laureates, academics, scholars, individuals, Youth, and members of civil society. Whilst the focus of this book is on Earth trusteeship, contributions are made in a broad perspective including indigenous worldviews, Earth Democracy, Restorative Justice and the constitution of Bhutan. The collection of diverse articles found within this publication not only stimulates a cross-fertilisation of ideas, but also illustrates to the reader that Earth trusteeship is interlinked with other concepts and thereby plays a tacit role in our daily lives. For example, Earth trusteeship seeks to continue what the Earth Charter started two decades earlier.
A central notion of the Earth Charter is the “community of life” of which humanity is part. Fully in line with the Earth Charter, the core message of Earth trusteeship (through The Hague Principles) is that, as humans are members of the community of life (or Earth community), this defines what responsibilities we have for each other and other members of the community. Earth trusteeship therefore is not an end in itself but seeks to work with all other models of global governance to secure a better planet for the future generations.
According to Neshan Gunasekera Co-Chair, Earth Trusteeship Working Group and author of one chapter; “this book brings together a unique collection of individuals who have worked on matters relating to Earth Trusteeship, using different approaches. It will be one of the first books on the subject matter at an important time. The Earth Charter is used, both in spirit as in principle in several of the articles.”
Human rights and the environment key issues / Sumudu Atapattu and Andrea Schapper.
From the publisher: The field of human rights and the environment has grown phenomenally during the last few years and this textbook will be one of the first to encourage students to think critically about how many environmental issues lead to a violation of existing rights.
Taking a socio-legal approach, this book will provide a good understanding of both human rights and environmental issues, as well as the limitations of each regime, and will explore the ways in which human rights law and institutions can be used to obtain relief for the victims of environmental degradation or of adverse effects of environmental policies. In addition, it will place an emphasis on climate change and climate policies to highlight the pros and cons of using a human rights framework and to underscore its importance in the context of climate change. As well as identifying emerging issues and areas for further research, each chapter will be rich in pedagogical features, including web links to further research and discussion questions for beyond the classroom.
Combining their specialisms in law and politics, Atapattu and Schapper have developed a truly inter-disciplinary resource that will be essential for students of human rights, environmental studies, international law, international relations, politics, and philosophy.
Human right to a healthy environment / edited by John H Knox and Pejan, Ramin
On the RWI shelf 86 HUM /Permalink
From the publisher: The absence of a globally recognized right to a healthy environment has not prevented the development of human rights norms relating to the environment. Indeed, one of the most noteworthy aspects of human rights law over the last twenty years is that UN treaty bodies, regional tribunals, special rapporteurs, and other human rights mechanisms have applied human rights law to environmental issues even without a stand-alone, justiciable human right to a healthy environment. In The Human Right to a Healthy Environment, a diverse set of scholars and practitioners, all of whom have been instrumental in defining the relationship between human rights and the environment, provide their thoughts on what is, or should be, the role of an international human right to a healthy environment. The right to a healthy environment could be a capstone to this field of law, could help to provide structure to it, or could move it in new directions.