News / 28 March 2012

Human rights council of UN recognizes relation human rights and environment

In the final days of March, the human rights council of the United Nations declared they will install an 'Independent Expert on Human Rights and Environment'. The effect of climate change on human lives is becoming more obvious, and by making this decision, the council acknowledges the importance of the relationship between human rights and the environment. This is good news right before the Rio+20 conference in June; Both ENDS and other civil society organisations are advocating incorporation of human rights into sustainable development policy.

Universal right to a healthy environment
With the appointment of an 'Independent Expert on Human Rights and Environment', the cohesion between human rights and the environment is being emphasized by the UN. This also shows that the human rights council recognizes the value of a universal right to a healthy environment. Right after Rio+20 international environmental laws were somewhat forgotten, but in recent years - with Rio+20 in sight - they have been getting more attention.


The independent expert on human rights and environment will point governments to their obligations towards human rights, which will guarantee a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The right to water and sanitation and the right to food already exist. Among other things, the tasks will consist of stimulating and exchanging ideas on maintaining human rights in relation to the environment. One can think of strengthening environmental policy, namely in the area of environmental protection. A report of the results will be discussed at the 21st meeting of the Human Rights Council and thereafter will be revised every year.


A Rights Based Approach
Both ENDS has been working on incorporating human rights into sustainable development for a long time by means of the Rights Based Approach (RBA). Around the world, rights like the right to water or traditional land rights are being violated by governments and companies; RBA is a method that can help citizens and communities in developmental countries to determine what their rights are and how they can protect these rights. "With appointing the expert, the UN gives out a signal that the relationship between human rights and the environment is being taken seriously", says Tobias Schmitz of Both ENDS. "That's very good news for the Rights Based Approach within the context of sustainable development".


photo Flickr: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Read more about this subject