Environment and human rights

The link between the environment and human rights is rapidly gaining currency in today’s human rights discourse. It is now abundantly clear that the environment and human rights are interdependent: living in an unhealthy environment may result in violations of human rights and, conversely, respect for human rights is vital for the protection of the environment. Environmental degradation and human suffering are flip sides of the same coin. Our efforts to protect human rights should therefore go hand in hand with protecting the environment.

The right to a clean and healthy environment has been recognised at the global level by the UN Human Rights Council in its landmark resolution adopted in October 2021. Its regional recognition has also seen steady progress, with 42 of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe having recognised various forms of this right in their legislation. In September 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made a proposal to anchor this right more firmly in the human rights standards of the Council of Europe. The Commissioner supports the growing recognition of the right to a clean and healthy environment and considers that the Council of Europe has an important role in helping member states prevent violations and in upholding the organisation’s human rights standards with regard to environmental protection.

The sense of an impending emergency has brought many people in Europe and the world together around a variety of initiatives demanding better environmental protection and more decisive action against climate change. Environmental human rights defenders and journalists are at the forefront of this struggle. In spite of the growing recognition, they are also increasingly targeted by attacks, reprisals and undue restrictions on their work. It is high time that European governments, both at the central and the local level, recognise and act decisively on their commitments to fight environmental pollution and climate change, and take their responsibilities vis-à-vis environmental human rights defenders and environmental journalists seriously. Europe should be a safe place for environmental activism.


Environmental Rights Activism and Advocacy in Europe: Issues, Threats, Opportunities

31/03/2021 Strasbourg

“Environmental protection is a critical pillar in ensuring that everyone in Europe can fully enjoy human rights,” the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, said today upon the release of a report on a round-table with environmental human rights defenders from across...

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