Duty bearers must walk the talk to ensure a healthy environment
Right to a healthy environment was high on the agenda at Stockholm+50 in June. When recognised by the UN member states at the upcoming General Assembly, it will provide an overarching framework for the existing body of environmental and human rights legislations and allow rightsholders to hold states and business actors accountable. Time is now for duty bearers to walk the talk and safeguard the right.
Across plenaries, leadership dialogues and side events during Stockholm+50 including a panel discussion co-organised by Swedwatch (see recording to the right), various speakers called for strengthening of legal institutions to safeguard a healthy planet.
These calls included recognising ecocide as an international crime, as well as legal right of Nature. However, recognition of the right to a healthy environment stood out. At the closing session of the Stockholm+50, Inger Anderson, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment emphasised that the human right to a healthy environment can no longer wait.
It should be emphasised that that the right to a healthy environment is not a new right. During the last decades, human rights bodies have underlined that a healthy environment is fundamental to enjoyment of the basic human rights. However, a universal recognition at the UN General Assembly can help to refine the application of the existing body of environmental and human rights legislations under a single framework. It strengthens the obligations of duty bearers, including states and business actors, to not only protect the environment but also ensure that individuals and groups across generations have procedural rights to environmental information, participation in environmental decision making, as well as access to justice and remedy.
Still, recognising the right is not enough. During Stockholm+50, the Swedish government was criticised for greenwashing the public and backtracking on the recommendations from the meeting. And we continue to see how economically driven interests contribute to environmental harm and obstruct the important work of environmental and human rights defenders around the globe.
If the UN member states, including Sweden, are serious in achieving the socially inclusive climate transition beyond the Stockholm+50, duty bearers need to not only recognise the right to a healthy environment at the UN General Assembly in July, but further enact their obligations and safeguard the right for current and future generations. And it bears reiterating that the peoples and communities in the global South are not only the most affected by the climate change and environmental harm; they are also key in forwarding the solutions needed and should be consulted and included in decision making. No time should be wasted. It is now time for duty bearers to walk the talk.
Related Swedwatch material
Panel discussion at Stockholm+50:
ForumCiv’s podcast on Stockholm+50 and discussions around what needs to be done to mitigate disproportionate impacts of climate change, with Yayoi Lagerqvist from Swedwatch on the list of speakers.
A universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the UN General Assembly can help to refine the application of existing body of environmental and human rights legislations.