New UNEP Resolution explicitly recalls the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2021, where Member States endorsed UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy.
New UNEP Resolution Explains How Human Rights Lead to Sustainable Development
Delhi (ABC Live India): New UNEP Resolution : In late March, the United Nations
Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that calls for a human-rights-based
approach to conserving and restoring natural spaces. We speak with the Acting
Director of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Law Division,
Arnold Kreilhuber, to find out how the resolution will help safeguard the
environment and contribute to sustainable development.
Human Rights Council adopted its first resolution on human rights and the
environment in 2011. What has changed since then and how is this
Kreilhuber (AK): Since 2011 we have seen important developments regarding
the undeniable link between human rights and the environment, which are
reflected in this resolution (46/L.6.Rev1).
the human rights obligations on states relating to the environment have become
clearer and more accepted. More than 155 states have now recognized some
form of a right to a healthy environment in international agreements or their
national constitutions, legislation, or policies.
the resolution notes and advances the need for a human-rights-based approach in
the context of conserving, restoring and sustainably using biodiversity,
particularly in the context of the ongoing post-2020
biodiversity framework negotiations and the One
all the resolutions adopted by the Human
Rights Council on human rights and the environment over the
last decade have, step-by-step, paved the way for the possible global
recognition of the right to a healthy environment. The last decade of action on
this topic resulted in a statement by states in which they commit
to proceeding with negotiations towards adopting a resolution proclaiming the
right by the UN.
will the resolution affect the work of UNEP and how could it contribute to the
achievement of global environmental and human rights goals?
resolution is a strong vote of confidence in UNEP’s work on environmental
rights. It welcomes UNEP’s work, particularly in the implementation of
the UN Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights. It will
help advance our ongoing partnership on environmental rights with the Office of
the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP)
and other key partners.
resolution explicitly recalls the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in
February 2021, where Member States endorsed UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy.
This is an important acknowledgement of UNEP’s commitment to work on advancing
human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy,
and sustainable environment.
resolution calls on states to take a rights-based approach to
biodiversity-related matters. What does this mean in a practical sense?
is a very important and timely call as the world is preparing to adopt a new
Global Biodiversity Framework in 2021. The integration of environmental and
human rights would be key to ensuring a healthy, biologically diverse and
sustainable planet for present and future generations and in supporting the
achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
assist states and other stakeholders in taking a rights-based approach, UNEP
and OHCHR published key messages on biodiversity and human
rights. The messages set out ways of incorporating a rights-based approach to
biodiversity-related matters, which include practices related to participation
in land and resource governance, accountability, cooperation at all levels,
education, and the protection of indigenous peoples and environmental human
rights defenders engaged in biodiversity-related protection activities.
also signed a joint statement, expressing their intent to proceed with
discussions for a resolution on the right to a healthy environment. What is the
significance of this statement and what issues will be discussed?
is a remarkable outcome. The joint statement, signed by 69 states,
represents an unprecedented level of support for the global recognition of the
right to a healthy environment and a commitment to proceed with the process of
formalising this recognition. A number of states in the past have expressed
their support for the global recognition of the right but an explicit, strong
intent signed by 69 states has never before been accomplished.
a statement helps to accelerate the momentum built around the recognition of
the right to a healthy environment. This has the support of the UN
Secretary-General, heads of UN agencies, including the Executive
Director of UNEP, 15 UN
entities as well as over 1,100 civil society and indigenous
organizations who signed a pledge calling for the recognition of
next steps will depend on states as it will be an inter-governmental
negotiation with the participation of other stakeholders. We expect that states
will discuss procedural aspects of the resolution and substantive aspects of
the right, including the scope and content of the resolution. UNEP is fully
committed to supporting states in achieving this goal.
are the benefits of the global recognition?
sees several benefits of the recognition of the right to a healthy environment.
Among others, UNEP expects that the global recognition of the right to a
healthy environment will serve as a catalyst in addressing a triple planetary
crisis: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.
shows that the recognition of the right to a healthy environment has
contributed to stronger environmental laws and policies, improved
implementation and enforcement of those laws and policies, increased levels of
public participation in environmental decision-making and has enhanced access
to information and access to justice. In short, it has contributed to improved
recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the global level will
support efforts to address environmental crises in a more coordinated,
effective and non-discriminatory manner, help achieve the SDGs, provide
stronger protection of rights and of the people defending the environment, and
help create a world where people can live in harmony with nature.
UN resolutions make a difference? Is there any evidence of that from the past?
show that UN resolutions have made a difference. An example can be drawn
from the process of the formal recognition of the right to water and sanitation
as an independent human right by the UN General Assembly Resolution (64/292) in July 2010. The recognition
spurred the inclusion of the right to water and sanitation in national
constitutions, laws and policies and resulted in positive effects on global
water governance and outcomes. Since the adoption of the resolution,
countless people have gained access to safe drinking water and sanitation,
creating a transformative change in their lives. We expect the UN resolution on
the right to a healthy environment would have an important and positive impact
on the lives of people on the ground.