The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Anderson, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700   Yves Lador, Earthjustice, +41.79.705.06.17 

Earthjustice Presents 2008 'Environmental Rights Report' to UN

Documenting worldwide recognition of the relationship between environmental protection and human rights


Earthjustice, a US-based environmental law NGO, will submit its
annual issue paper on the status of environmental rights to the United
Nations Human Rights Council today in Geneva. According to the report,
while environmental harms continue to undermine human rights around the
world, a growing number of international, regional, and national
institutions recognize the right to a clean and healthy environment.

Download the report (PDF)

The 2008 Environmental Rights Report reviews the work of
international, regional, and domestic institutions from 2007 for legal
developments in the recognition of the right to a healthy environment,
and presents case studies demonstrating the connection between the
environment and human rights. The case studies in this year's report
are focused on a particular issue at the intersection of human rights
and the environment -- the transboundary nature of environmental
problems. The report also provides a comprehensive list of national
constitutional provisions protecting environmental rights.

"We are pleased to report on developments that illustrate how
governments and international institutions are working to establish the
human right to a healthy environment," says Kirsten Anderson of
Earthjustice. "However, because environmental problems often transcend
political boundaries, international, regional, and domestic governing
bodies should work in cooperation to ensure that the right to a clean
and healthy environment is protected."

Highlights from this year's report:

  • The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of
    Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007 during its 107th plenary
    meeting. Article 29 of the Declaration states, "Indigenous peoples have
    the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the
    productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States
    shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous
    peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination."
  • Representatives of the Small Island Developing States
    adopted the Male' Declaration on the Human Dimension of Climate Change
    on November 14, 2007. The Declaration called for urgent action to be
    taken by the international community at the United Nation Framework
    Convention on Climate Change in Bali to protect people, the planet, and
    prosperity. According to the Declaration, Small Island States are
    "[c]oncerned that climate change has clear and immediate implications
    for the full enjoyment of human rights including inter alia the right
    to life, the right to take part in cultural life, the right to use and
    enjoy property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right
    to food, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical
    and mental health."
  • On August 19, 2007, a new Constitution of the Kingdom of
    Thailand was adopted. The 2007 Constitution upholds the rights of
    communities to "conserve or restore their customs, local knowledge,
    good arts and culture of their community and of the nation and
    participate in the management, maintenance, preservation and
    exploitation of natural resources, the environment and the biological
    diversity in a balanced and sustainable fashion."
  • In June 2007, Chile's Supreme Court ruled that the state
    must compensate 356 residents in the mining city of Arica for health
    problems caused by years of exposure to open deposits of toxic waste.
    Testing revealed the presence of lead and arsenic in many surrounding
    homes, and blood tests revealed that thousands of residents have high
    levels of lead in their blood. The court held the state liable because
    the Ministry of Health failed to adopt measures to protect the health
    of residents from environmental contamination.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.