Landmark UN Resolution Confirms Healthy Environment is a Human Right

Photo: Ak’ Tenamit

Nemonte Nenquimo, a member of the Waorani indigenous community in Ecuador says she is of “warrior blood.” Her weapon of choice has been an unusual one: the lawsuit.

In 2019, under Nenquimo’s leadership, the Waorani sued the Ecuadorian government for not consulting with them before offering their land for oil exploration.

“As indigenous people, we must unite in a single objective: that we demand that they respect us,” said Nenquimo, who is a UNEP Champion of the Earth. “The Amazon is our home and it is not for sale.”

Later that year, the court passed a historic ruling protecting 500,000 acres of Waraoni land from oil exploration. Like Nenquimo, thousands of activists across the world have had to place their lives in peril to protect their lands and nature. But now, these environmental defenders have a reason to celebrate. Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) recognised for the first time that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.

When Resolution 48/13 was adopted, applause broke out in the normally quiet Council chamber and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, David Boyd, tweeted a picture of himself with a raised fist.

“A little bit of joyful emotion at the very staid Human Rights Council, as the UN for the first time recognizes the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment!” he wrote.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called the adoption of the resolution “a breakthrough moment for environmental justice”, saying it would help shield individuals and communities from risks to their health and livelihoods. She encouraged Member States to consider a similar resolution at the UN General Assembly, which has universal membership.

Ms. Andersen said UNEP expected the resolution to embolden governments, legislators, courts, and citizen groups in pursuing substantial elements of the Common Agenda for renewed solidarity, presented last month by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as the 2020 Call to Action on Human Rights.

You can read the whole article HERE.

Source: UNEP