UN recognition of human right to clean environment important for at-risk environmental human rights defenders: David Boyd

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On October 8, The Guardian reported: “The UN’s main human rights body [the Human Rights Council] has overwhelmingly voted to recognise the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right, and to appoint an expert to monitor human rights in the context of the climate emergency.”

This United Nations media statement further notes: “In resolution 48/13, the Council called on States around the world to work together, and with other partners, to implement this newly recognised right.”

It adds: “The issue will now go to the UN General Assembly in New York, for further consideration.”

David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, has commented: “This resolution is especially important for all of the environmental human rights defenders working, often at great personal risk, to safeguard the land, air, water and ecosystems that we all depend on.”

Boyd further urged leaders who will meet at the UN COP26 conference in Glasgow starting on October 31 to put human rights at the centre of their actions.

In the lead-up to COP26, the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice, Fridays for Future, Global Witness and eight youth climate activists have all recently called on governments to stop the criminalization and killing of land defenders.

Global Witness has documented that there were 227 lethal attacks against land and environmental rights defenders in 2020. More than half of this global total were killed in Colombia (65), Mexico (30), Honduras (17), Guatemala (13) and Nicaragua (12).

The Human Rights Council has previously stated: “Human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders, must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

PBI webinar, November 6

Peace Brigades International will be holding a webinar on COP26 and land defenders on Saturday November 6 at 1 pm EST (Ontario/Quebec) and 1900 CEST (European time).

It will feature frontline environmental defenders from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

To register for this webinar, please click here.

We will be amplifying their voices, highlighting their stories of resistance, and calling for protection measures to be reflected in the Glasgow Pact emerging from COP26.

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