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

Started in January 2022

Context

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.

Objectives

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.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

Forest from below News

New Publication Explores National Uptake of the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

25 March 2024

Our new Research Brief The Human Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment explores the national recognition of this human right.

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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 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.

OUTPUT

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.

Publications

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

Download > Download >

Past Events

The Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment: Consensus Building on its Scope and Links with Other Human Rights

5 March 2024, 14:30-15:30

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

14 September 2022, 19:00-20:30

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

ILGA World Logo News

In Highlight: ILGA World Database

28 March 2024

Via its DHRTTDs Directory, the Geneva Human Rights Platform provides a comprehensive list and description of such key tools and databases. But how to navigate them? Which tool should be used for what, and by whom? This interview helps us understand better the specificities of the March highlight of the directory: ILGA World Database.

Read more

GHRP staff in New York UN headquarters News

GHRP's 2023 Conference Strengthens Geneva-New York Human Rights Interconnectedness

6 November 2023

This landmark event of our Geneva Human Rights Platform focused on the need to bridge the gap between Geneva-based human rights mechanisms and the UN in New York, based on the interrelated nature of human rights issues across both cities.

Read more

A hand on a wire fence Event

Recognition of Gender Apartheid as an International Crime: Significance and Challenges

18 April 2024, 18:00-19:30

This panel will address crucial questions surrounding the necessity of a legal framework for gender apartheid under international law.

Read more

African Family Event

Biracial Children, African Mothers and Colonization: a Global Case for Reparations

17 April 2024, 18:00-20:00

This side event to the 3rd session of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent will address a range of demands for justice and reparations from biracial people across Europe and Central Africa.

Read more

Open dump Training

Protecting Human Rights and the Environment

2-20 September 2024

Participants in this training course, made of two modules, will examine the major international and regional instruments for the promotion of human rights and the environment, familiarizing themselves with the respective implementation and enforcement mechanisms.

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A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

11-15 November 2024

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

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George Floyd protest in Washington D.C. Project

Promoting and Protecting the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and Civic Space Worldwide

Started in June 2020

This project aims at providing support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Voulé by addressing emerging issues affecting civic space and eveloping tools and materials allowing various stakeholders to promote and defend civic space.

Read more

Crops view from the sky Project

The Right to Food in Europe

Started in December 2022

This research will provide legal expertise to a variety of stakeholders on the implementation of the right to food, and on the right to food as a legal basis for just transformation toward sustainable food systems in Europe. It will also identify lessons learned from the 2023 recognition of the right to food in the Constitution of the Canton of Geneva.  

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Cover of the publication Publication

Briefing N° 23: The Human Rights Data Revolution

published on April 2024

Domenico Zipoli

Read more

Cover Page of Research Brief Publication

Navigating the Nexus: Climate Insecurity, Environmental Rights Violations and Conflict in Fragile Settings

published on March 2024

Erica Harper

Read more