UN make a decisive move on Right to a Healthy Environment

Scarpe escaut Nature Regional Park, France © Samuel Dhote

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On 28 July, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) recognized a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right.

What is the declaration?

This UNGA declaration states that everyone has a right to a healthy environment. This includes clean air and water, as well as a stable climate.

As the UNGA is the UN’s only forum with representation of all its 193 Member States, this resolution is historic.

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) declared:

The resolution will trigger environmental action and provide necessary safeguards to people all over the world. It will help people stand up for their right to breathe clean air, to access safe and sufficient water, healthy food, healthy ecosystems, and non-toxic environments to live, work, study, and play.

What does it mean?

Bergsetbreen Glacier, Norway. Photo Vegard Aasen

Though not legally binding, this resolution paves the way for an acceleration toward the goal of an inclusive, green recovery. How? For instance, by incorporating the right to a healthy environment into national constitutions. People could then use national human rights law against environmentally destructive policies.

EUROPARC welcomes this normative development and reaffirms its commitment to human rights. As the representative voice of Protected Areas in Europe, we have long advocated for a healthy nature, to support a healthy society.

What is EUROPARC doing?

On the advocacy side, EUROPARC became the chair of the Environment, Climate Change, Heritage and Health Committee (ECCH&H) at the Conference of INGOs at the Council of Europe last year. The objective of this Committee is that:

human rights of European citizens are upheld with respect to the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and the connection between people and natural and cultural heritage.

The UN resolution further legitimises this important work.

EUROPARC invests energy and resources on several initiatives for Protected Areas, focusing on topics such as climate change adaptation, youth or health & nature, just to name a few.

Michael Hošek EUROPARC Federation President stated:

This welcome declaration will be an impetus to ensure people have access to a clean and safe environment, not only close to where they live, but in the nature that surrounds them. Protected Areas already give millions of Europeans access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment” and we need to ensure our parks are valued and invested in, to secure these nature and health benefits.

What can your Protected Area do?

Healthy Parks make Healthy People and are well suited to lead us into a green future – EUROPARC is there to support in this pathway.

The right access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment” is  important to us all, so:

  • If you want to know more
  • If you want to contribute

Then, have a look at our resources on Climate Change Adaptation, join the different EUROPARC initiatives, like Healthy Parks Healthy People Europe or the programmes for Young People in Protected Areas.

Share your knowledge through any of our initiatives!

Together, we can create the green and healthy future of tomorrow.