New Research on the Right to a Healthy Environment

22 March 2022

Global environmental challenges – climate change, food insecurity or lack of access to water, land or raw materials – are on the rise. Besides their major impact on stability and security worldwide, they are also leading to displacement, human rights violations and conflict.

Building on the recent recognition by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, our new research aims at mainstreaming this right and the protection it affords in the work of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and Geneva-based human rights mechanisms – UN treaty bodies, the HRC, its Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review.

Encouraging States to Prioritize Implementation through Legislation, Policy and Resource Allocation

UN human rights mechanisms and the UN General Assembly play a crucial role in devising concrete avenues and recommendations for implementing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, notably at the national level.

‘This mainstreaming will notably encourage states to prioritize the implementation of this right through legislation, policy and resource allocation. It will also potentially provide access to justice and remedies for those who suffer from the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change’ explains Dr Christophe Golay, Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy.

‘It is important to build on this momentum and work for ensuring implementation, notably by providing relevant stakeholders – states, UN human rights mechanisms and oversight mechanisms of multilateral environmental agreements – with the scientific-based evidence to guide their work in integrating and better protecting the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This is precisely what we will do with this project’ underlines Dr Megan Donald, Associate Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

Kibera slum, Nairobi

A Larger Focus on Sustainable Development

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. It also complements our training course on protecting human rights and the environment.

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