What are environmental rights?

Environmental rights means any proclamation of a human right to environmental conditions of a specified quality. 

Environmental rights are enshrined in over 100 constitutions yet 207 people were murdered in 2017 protecting these rights, while many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Around 40 - 50 percent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2016 came from indigenous and local communities. Women environmental defenders are especially vulnerable.

Who are environmental defenders?

Substantive Rights

Substantive rights include those in which the environment has a direct effect on the existence or the enjoyment of the right itself. Substantive rights comprise of: civil and political rights, such as the rights to life and liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of religion; cultural and social rights such as rights to health, water, food, and culture; and collective rights affected by environmental degradation, such as the rights of indigenous peoples (which is recognised in human rights and environment law).

Procedural Rights

Procedural rights are a key point of intersection between environmental and human rights law; they prescribe formal steps to be taken in enforcing legal rights. Procedural rights include rights to free, prior and informed consent, access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice. These rights are found in both environmental and human rights instruments and have been interpreted under both regimes to provide broad protections for environmental interests. 

UN Environment seeks to highlight the importance of the human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, sustainable and healthy environment. 

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