Healthy environment and human rights: two historic victories achieved at the UN

08/10/2021
Press release
en es fr

PARIS 08/10/2021 A historic afternoon at the United Nations Human Rights Council witnessed states adopt two resolutions by an overwhelming majority.

• The first resolution establishes the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as an internationally recognised right, and brings environmental protection fully within the framework of human rights (43 in favour, 4 abstentions, 0 against).

• The second resolution creates a mandate for a Special Rapporteur (UN expert) for the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change (42 in favour, 4 abstentions, 1 against).

Recognition of the right to a healthy environment will lead to the development of state obligations and of stronger environmental laws and legal mechanisms to enforce such laws. It is particularly important for communities affected by polluting companies and for human rights and environmental activists who fight daily to protect the planet.

It is the culmination of two fights that the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and over a thousand other civil society organisations, indigenous peoples, experts, and diplomats have been waging for years.

In September, FIDH launched #SeeYouInCourt, a campaign whose central objective was to demand the international recognition of the right to a healthy environment, on behalf of communities affected by polluting companies.

"The UN is taking a historic step by recognising the fundamental right of individuals to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and by strengthening its tools to fight climate change. Its action plugs a legal gap that benefits polluting states and corporations. But it is urgent, and our mobilisation has only just begun."

Clémence Bectarte, Coordinator of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Legal Action Group

Encouraged by this first achievement, FIDH is maintaining the pressure on states to act quickly in response to the environmental and climate crisis. In particular, FIDH urges the states that will meet at COP26 in November, as well as the European Union, which is currently working on a proposal for a directive on the duty of vigilance, to regulate economic actors in order to respond to the blind spot in climate and environmental policies: corporate responsibility.

Read more