Healthy Environment a Human Right, UN Declares

Dare to Know
6 min readJul 29, 2022

A healthy environment is a human right and vital to the enjoyment of other rights, according to a new UN General Assembly resolution. Find out why this is both a cause for celebration and a call to action.

For a while now, I’ve been volunteering with Amnesty International. They’re a human rights agency founded by a British lawyer named Peter Benenson in 1960.

Today, Amnesty has more than ten million members worldwide. It draws attention to specific human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international laws and standards.

My job as an urgent action volunteer is to write letters to world leaders on behalf of people whose rights have been abused. I’m a small part of a broader category of activists called human rights defenders.

Definition of Human Rights Keeps Broadening Under UN

Most of the cases I deal with involve things like fair trials, arbitrary arrests or freedom of speech. However, over the years, the definition of human rights keeps broadening under the leadership of the United Nations, which enacted the orginal Universal Declaration.

The UN General Assembly made history this week, even if it didn’t get much immediate attention in the news. It declared, with 161 votes in favour and eight abstentions, that access to a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment is a universal human right. Nobody voted against it.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres, “The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples.”

“Resolution Will Help Reduce Environmental Injustices”

The purpose of this resolution is to encourage governments to get moving on putting both their environmental and human rights responsiblities into place. As Guterres put it, “The international community has given universal recognition to this right and brought us closer to making it a reality for all.”

The resolution “Recognizesthe right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right that is important for the enjoyment of human rights.” It also, “Notesthat…

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Dare to Know, published by David Morton Rintoul, is for those who find meaning in stories about our Universe, Life, and Humanity.