World, Environment

UN urged to declare healthy environment a human right

‘In this critical Decade of Action, we must take necessary actions to save ecosystems from collapse, says Patricia Zurita

Burak Bir   | 22.04.2020
UN urged to declare healthy environment a human right


A wildlife NGO called on the UN to declare a healthy, natural environment as a "fundamental" human right on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

"[...] as part of its [UN] response to the coronavirus pandemic, to add an ‘Article 31’ to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – enshrining a universal right to a healthy natural environment, guaranteed by public policies, governed by sustainability and by scientific and traditional indigenous knowledge," BirdLife International said in a statement on Wednesday.

In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Patricia Zurita, chief executive of BirdLife International, said that the "unprecedented" COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of the healthy natural environment as well as the need to restoring them in order to be protected from similar kind of outbreaks.

"We invite you – we implore you – to call for an addition to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: to enshrine a new article 31, one that recognizes the right to a healthy environment," Zurita said in the open letter.

She said that, Dec. 2023, the date that will mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration, would be a positive step to declare it.

"In this critical 'Decade of Action', we must take the necessary decisive actions to save the ecosystems of the planet from collapse. The effects of global warming, and the loss of biodiversity on people's health and their economies, if left unaddressed, will be irreparable," she added.

Referring to the right of a healthy environment, she went on to say that there has never been a more important time to "enshrine a human right" which is beneficial for all people.

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 of every year. This year marks the 50th year of Earth Day which is observed under the theme of climate action.

Established in 1922, the U.K.-based BirdLife International is a global partnership of conservation organizations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 185 countries and regions since emerging in China last December, with the U.S. and Europe being the hardest-hit areas in the world.

The virus has killed nearly 180,000 people and infected almost 2.6 million, while more than 696,900 have recovered, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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