Access to Clean Environments Declared Universal Human Right

August 17, 2022

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has adopted a resolution declaring access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a universal human right. The resolution had 161 nations in its favor, while eight countries chose to abstain from voting.

The resolution, originally presented by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland in June, states that the right to a healthy environment is related to existing international law and its promotion requires the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. It also affirms that environmental damage has negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, David Boyd, the declaration will change the nature of international human rights law.

“Governments have made promises to clean up the environment and address the climate emergency for decades but having a right to a healthy environment changes people’s perspective from ‘begging’ to demanding governments to act”, he recently told UN News.

Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen added, “From a foothold in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, the right has been integrated into constitutions, national laws, and regional agreements. [The] decision elevates the right to where it belongs: universal recognition.”

“So, the recognition of this right is a victory we should celebrate,” Andersen continued. “My thanks to Member States and to the thousands of civil society organizations and indigenous peoples’ groups, and tens of thousands of young people who advocated relentlessly for this right. But now we must build on this victory and implement the right.”

During this week’s GBAC Symposium in Chicago, Patricia Olinger, the executive director of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council™ (GBAC), a Division of ISSA, discussed with Dr. John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards, the recent United Nations declaration, the effect it will have on public and human health, and how it might help the cleaning industry’s impact on those it serves. Check out the video below to hear the interview.