Human Rights and The Environment: quick intro to the connections

The following human rights are often affected by environmental harms:

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Right to Life The right to life has extensive environmental links. It could be linked to any environmental disruption that directly contributed to the loss of lives – including to the mentioned air pollution causing 2.4 million deaths per year.

Right to Health This right, closely linked to the right to life, is often violated in cases of pollution of air, land or water.

Right to Water Although not specifically codified in an international treaty, (access to) water is more frequently invoked and accepted as a human right. It’s obviously linked to life and health.

Right to Food Due to the environmental disruption, the right to physical and economic access to adequate food, is progressively under pressure.

Right to Development Sustainable development recognises that environmentally destructive economic progress does not produce long-term societal progress.

Right to Property With sea levels rising, more and more people living on islands and in coastal areas, have and will be deprived of (parts of) their property.

Right to Shelter and Housing When environmental degradation displaces individuals and communities or compels them to live in unhealthy, hazardous conditions.

Right to information and Right to Participate These rights have elements of obtaining government-held information and government’s duty to apprise the people

Right to work Along with environmental disruption often comes deprivation of the right to work. An example would be industrial overfishing putting small local fishermen out of work.

Right to Culture, Family Life and Rights of Indigenous People The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for the first time recognises the conservation and protection of the environment and resources as a human right.

Rights and Equity, non-discrimination Where they have least contributed to the problems, impacts of climate change and other environmental harms are expected to be bigger on the poorer parts than in the more wealthier parts of the world.

Women and Children’s Rights Women and children are even more impacted by environmental disruption than men and because their immune systems have not fully been developed, children are vulnerable to toxics, bacterial and viral contamination.

These examples only provide a sampling of many connections between human rights and environmental protection. Other substantive areas that combine human rights and environmental considerations include humanitarian law, environmental refugees issues and the effects of development projects funded by development banks.

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