Earthjustice, a US-based environmental law NGO, will submit its annual issue paper on the status of environmental rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council today in Geneva. According to the report, while environmental harms continue to undermine human rights around the world, a growing number of international, regional, and national institutions recognize the right to a clean and healthy environment.
Download the report (PDF)
The 2008 Environmental Rights Report reviews the work of international, regional, and domestic institutions from 2007 for legal developments in the recognition of the right to a healthy environment, and presents case studies demonstrating the connection between the environment and human rights. The case studies in this year's report are focused on a particular issue at the intersection of human rights and the environment -- the transboundary nature of environmental problems. The report also provides a comprehensive list of national constitutional provisions protecting environmental rights.
"We are pleased to report on developments that illustrate how governments and international institutions are working to establish the human right to a healthy environment," says Kirsten Anderson of Earthjustice. "However, because environmental problems often transcend political boundaries, international, regional, and domestic governing bodies should work in cooperation to ensure that the right to a clean and healthy environment is protected."
Highlights from this year's report:
- The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007 during its 107th plenary meeting. Article 29 of the Declaration states, "Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination."
- Representatives of the Small Island Developing States adopted the Male' Declaration on the Human Dimension of Climate Change on November 14, 2007. The Declaration called for urgent action to be taken by the international community at the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali to protect people, the planet, and prosperity. According to the Declaration, Small Island States are "[c]oncerned that climate change has clear and immediate implications for the full enjoyment of human rights including inter alia the right to life, the right to take part in cultural life, the right to use and enjoy property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to food, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."
- On August 19, 2007, a new Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand was adopted. The 2007 Constitution upholds the rights of communities to "conserve or restore their customs, local knowledge, good arts and culture of their community and of the nation and participate in the management, maintenance, preservation and exploitation of natural resources, the environment and the biological diversity in a balanced and sustainable fashion."
- In June 2007, Chile's Supreme Court ruled that the state must compensate 356 residents in the mining city of Arica for health problems caused by years of exposure to open deposits of toxic waste. Testing revealed the presence of lead and arsenic in many surrounding homes, and blood tests revealed that thousands of residents have high levels of lead in their blood. The court held the state liable because the Ministry of Health failed to adopt measures to protect the health of residents from environmental contamination.