Towards a Better Protection of the Right to a Healthy Environment

Started in January 2022

Global environmental challenges – climate change, food insecurity or lack of access to water, land or raw materials – are on the rise. Besides their major impact on stability and security worldwide, they are also leading to displacement, human rights violations and conflict.

Although the linkages between the environment and human rights have occasionally been recognized by domestic, regional and international courts and human rights mechanisms, the recognition of a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in October 2021 provides a stronger basis for more direct and consistent protection of the environment and human rights.

Objectives

Building on this recent recognition, this research aims at mainstreaming the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the protection it affords in the work of the UN Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review, as well as in the work of the UN General Assembly and UN treaty bodies.

Mainstreaming this right will provide guidance for judicial and administrative decision-making related to the environment and human rights, encourage states to prioritize its implementation through legislation, policy and resource allocation, and potentially provide access to justice and remedies for those who suffer from the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change.

2022 Activities

The project’s team will undertake three complementary activities in 2022:

  • The organization of a closed expert seminar with the participation of UN human rights mechanisms, oversight mechanisms of multilateral environmental agreements and other key partners in order to gather crucial input and feedback on the research
  • The organization of a public event with the participation of relevant stakeholders, including states, experts, international organizations, and NGOs to discuss the research and promote the mainstreaming of the right to a healthy environment
  • Draft a series of publications to provide all relevant stakeholders with scientific-based evidence to guide their work in integrating and better protecting the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

Open dump's view from the sky News

New Publication Details the Contours and Next Steps for the Right to a Healthy Environment

9 January 2023

Our new publication Human Rights and the Environment explores the implications of the recently recognised right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, with a focus on the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

Read more >

Scavengers Burning Trash, Tondo Garbage Dump, Manila Philippines News

New Research on the Right to a Healthy Environment

22 March 2022

This project forms part of our research cluster on sustainable development that aims to explore the linkages between sustainable development, the protection of the environment, climate change and the branches of international law that protect the rights of the most vulnerable.

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RESEARCHERS

Picture of Christophe Golay

Christophe Golay

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Christophe Golay's expertise relates to economic, social and cultural rights, the right to food and the rights of peasants.

Portrait of Megan Donald

Megan Donald

Associate Research Fellow

Her areas of expertise include economic, social and cultural rights, the relationship between human rights and the environment, environmental law, and the interpretation of human rights.

OUTPUT

Detailing the Contours and Next Steps for the Right to a Healthy Environment

The publication Human Rights and the Environment explores the implications of the recently recognized right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, with a focus on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

It provides needed guidance to these bodies, states, other UN human rights mechanisms, supervisory bodies of multilateral environmental agreements, as well as experts and NGOs on how to mainstream it in their work and resolutions.

This mainstreaming, in turn, will assist judicial and administrative decision-making related to the environment and human rights, encourage states to prioritize the implementation of this right through legislation, policy and resource allocation, and potentially provide access to justice and remedies for those who suffer from the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change.

The main findings and recommendations entailed in this publication are summarized in a Research Brief aimed at policy-makers who negotiate resolutions at the HRC and UNGA.

Publications

Cover of the publication

Right to a Healthy Environment

December 2022

Megan Donald

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the publication

Briefing N° 21: Human Rights and the Environment

December 2022

Megan Donald

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download > Download >

Past Events

Promoting and Protecting the Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

14 September 2022, 19:00-20:30

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

News

New Website on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants

12 December 2022

On this 4th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, we are launching – with FIAN International, La Via Campesina and CETIM – a new website dedicated to this Declaration.

Read more

Special Rapporteur name plate at the UN Human Rights Council News

Research Provides Critical Insights to Understand the Impact of Interventions by UN Special Procedures

16 January 2023

Our new working paper Assessment Tool for Special Procedures' Impact Evaluation – Developing an Initial Framework examines how to further develop methodologies to appraise the impact of UN Special Procedures.

Read more

CSW63 Side Event - “Take the Hot Seat” Intergenerational Dialogue Event

Child Participation in the Work of UN Human Rights Mechanisms

6 February 2023, 13:15-14:45

This Human Rights Conversation will discuss child participation in the work of UN human rights mechanisms and opportunities to move away from today’s reliance on individual organizations or UN representatives’ initiatives.

Read more

Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility. Inside a room where detainees of the prison, separated by an acrylic glass, are allowed to meet with their families a couple of times per year with the help of the ICRC employees who facilitate the programme. Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

27 April - 8 June 2023

This online short course discusses the extent to which states may limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter-terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

1 March - 18 April 2023

This online short course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

Un plate with Rapporteur Spécial written on it Project

Support to UN Special Procedures

Started in June 2020

Read more

Plastic pollution on an Italian shore Project

Towards a Better Protection of the Right to a Healthy Environment

Started in January 2022

This research aims at mainstreaming the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the protection it affords in the work of the UN Human Rights Council, its Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review, as well as in the work of the UN General Assembly and UN treaty bodies.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Assessment Tool for Special Procedures' Impact Evaluation – Developing an Initial Framework

published on January 2023

Jonathan Andrew

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Right to a Healthy Environment

published on December 2022

Megan Donald

Read more