Unpacking the Human Right to a Healthy Environment: Definition, Implementation and Impact

Started in January 2022


In 2021 and 2022, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly (UNGA) endorsed resolutions recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment (R2HE). While broadly lauded as a breakthrough for environmental protection, experts remain divided on whether a non-binding resolution will be able to overcome a lack of consensus and vested interests within and between states or mark a critical step towards tighter environmental accountability and enforcement.

One point of agreement is that its implementation requires a clarified understanding of its content, related states ‘obligations, as well as its interconnection with other human rights, and that evidence is needed on how this soft-law instrument has been used to bring changes in national laws and policies.


This project will start by clarifying the definition of the R2HE, its content – including substantive and procedural aspects –, related states’ obligations, as well as its interconnections with other human rights.

In a second phase, the research will address its implementation and how UNGA resolution A/76/300 that endorsed this right has led to changes in domestic laws and policies, has influenced court cases or has been referred to in decisions taken by regional and international human rights mechanisms.

Such insights will be instructive for policy-makers, development programming agencies, environmental advocates, civil society, tribunals, and experts, as well as regional and international human rights mechanisms.


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.

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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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Picture of Christophe Golay

Christophe Golay

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 Dr Dr Baïna Ubushieva

Baïna Ubushieva

Associate Research Fellow

Her expertise and publications are centred around international and European human rights law, with a particular focus on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.


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

Building on the recent recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the first phase of this research – completed in 2022 – aimed to mainstream this right and the protection it affords in the work of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and Geneva-based human rights mechanisms.

Published in December 2022, our briefing Human Rights and the Environmentand its research brief The Right to a Healthy Environment detail the contours of this right and the relationship between human rights and the environment, formulating concrete recommendations on its mainstreaming in the work and resolutions of the UNGA and the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

At a side event during the 51st session of the HRC – co-organized with the permanent missions of Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Switzerland and Slovenia to the UN in Geneva – diplomats, representatives from NGOs and international organizations and experts also discussed the implementation of this right and the role of the HRC in this.


Cover of the publication

Right to a Healthy Environment

December 2022

Megan Donald

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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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

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Past Events

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

14 September 2022, 19:00-20:30

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Expert roundtable on digital human rights tracking tools and databases News

Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases: Pioneering Discussions at the Expert Roundtable

22 September 2023

More than 30 DHRTTD developers and users representing different permanent missions, national ministries, international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academia delved into the transformation digital tools bring to the human rights landscape.

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Portrait of Professor Claudia Martin News

Our New Visiting Fellow: Professor Claudia Martin

30 June 2023

Professor Claudia Martin just started as Visiting Fellow at the Geneva Academy and will stay with us until the end of July. She tells us in this interview the focus of her research during her time at the Geneva Academy.

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New York City Manhattan with view of Un Headquarters Event

2023 Annual Conference: Connecting Geneva and New York for Enhanced Human Rights Protection

21-24 October 2023

The Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform will take place in New York to explore the links between Geneva and New York, the relevance of Geneva's outputs in New York debates, and the implications for human rights.

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Closeup of the Meta sign at the entrance to the Meta Platforms headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Event

A New Human Rights Tribunal in Town? The Oversight Board and the Future of Online Freedom of Expression

18 October 2023, 18:00-19:30

This Human Rights Conversation will explore the extent to which an independent mechanism such as the Meta Oversight Board is akin to a human rights tribunal and the risks that could be linked to delegating such powers to a private authority.

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View of a session of the UN Human Rights Committee Training

The International Human Rights Standards and System: Monitoring and Implementation Strategies at the National Level

8-12 July 2024

This training course will delve into the means and mechanisms through which national actors can best coordinate their human rights monitoring and implementation efforts, enabling them to strategically navigate the UN human rights system and use the various mechanisms available in their day-to-day work.

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Garment workersto receive food from their factory during lunch time. This food is freely provided by their factory in order to ensure that workers eat healthy and hygienic food. Training

Business and Human Rights

Fall 2024

This training course will examine how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have been utilized to advance the concept of business respect for human rights throughout the UN system, the impact of the Guiding Principles on other international organizations, as well as the impact of standards and guidance developed by these different bodies.

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View of a session of the UN Human Rights Council Project

Human Rights Conversations

Started in January 2020

A series of events aimed at discussing contemporary issues and challenges related to the promotion and protection of human rights in Geneva and beyond.

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Rwanda, on the outskirts of Kigali, Wa-Jali. Jeanne Françoise, a young girl reunited two years ago with her grandmother by the ICRC, stands in a banana orchard near her house. Project

Sustainable Development and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Completed in January 2008

This project aimed to raise awareness about the complementarity of human rights and development by analyzing the relationship between economic, social and cultural rights and global development goals, namely the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015.

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Cover page of the Working Paper Publication

Exploring Counterterrorism Effectiveness and Human Rights Law

published on September 2023

Gloria Gaggioli, Michael Moncrieff , Ilya Sobol

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Cover page of the research brief Publication

Youth Associated with Non-State Armed Groups: Building an Evidence Base on Disengagement Pathways and Reintegration Challenges

published on September 2023

Erica Harper, Yosuke Nagai

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