UN Human Rights Council Declares Access to a Healthy Environment a Human Right

UN Human Rights Council Declares Access to a Healthy Environment a Human Right
Photo: UNHRC

Veronika Sherova,

Environment and Human Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.


On Friday, October 8, the United Nations Human Rights Council recognized for the first time in history that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right. Resolution 48/13 was passed with 43 countries voting in favor, while Russia, India, China, and Japan abstained. The resolution "called on States around the world to work together, and with other partners to implement this newly recognised right." The resolution acknowledges the damage inflicted by climate change on millions of people around the world and highlights that the most vulnerable are also affected the most. This issue will now be passed to the General Assembly in New York. 

In her statement, Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, emphasized the connection between people and the planet, “... recognising the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is about protecting people and planet – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. It is also about protecting the natural systems which are basic preconditions to the lives and livelihoods of all people, wherever they live.” 

The resolution comes just weeks before the crucial UN climate change summit, COP26. Focusing on the human rights impacts of climate change, the resolution is hoped to stimulate a wider acceptance of such an approach. 


Sources and further reading:

Access to a healthy environment, declared a human right by UN rights council. (8 October 2021). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1102582

Bachelet hails landmark recognition that having a healthy environment is a human right. (8 October 2021). UNHRC DisplayNews. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27635&LangID=E