In marking World Human Rights Day this year, which falls on 10th December, the United Nations is calling on everyone to stand up for someone else’s rights. Such a call is indeed apt. Worldover, devastating conflicts are forcing people to leave their homes, denying many of their basic human rights, while issues such as violence against women and children, and violence against minorities, have become serious human rights concerns. Yet, there is another pressing human rights issue that is fast taking centre stage. What about the right of every individual to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment?
A safe and healthy environment is essential to fully enjoy a wide range of human rights, including the right to life, health, food, water, and sanitation. Environment degradation continues to impact human health and wellbeing, threatening the rights, freedoms and dignity of millions of people across the world. Did you know that more than 2 million deaths worldwide are as a result of environmental pollution?
Key progresses were made this year in accelerating efforts towards helping people realise their rights to a healthy environment. Significant among them was the adoption of the new development agenda, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda urges states to make firm commitments “to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment”,, thus drawing a close link between the environment and the enjoyment of human rights. According to the United Nations, many states have also now begun to incorporate the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. Last month, the landmark Paris agreement on climate change entered into force, marking a significant commitment by world leaders to limit the rise in global temperatures. Under the agreement, all countries have an obligation to keep global warming levels below 2C that scientists have regarded as a safe limit, beyond which, climate change can have catastrophic consequences on people and the planet.
Amidst such efforts by governments, Andrew Norton, the Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, has called on the need to hear from the people who will be the hardest hit, highlighting the urgent need to reach the poorest and the most vulnerable. Therefore, this Human Rights Day, why not join CoirGreen™ in stepping forward to speak up for someone for their right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment?