What are your environmental rights?

Concerning human rights law, there are numerous human rights treaties, bodies and declarations. Within this, there are human rights, and their laws, that relate to the environment. A basic compilation of these environmental rights is listed below (sources at the bottom):   

For a child-friendly resource click here                                                                                             

Everyone has the following environmental rights*:

Substantive Rights

  • To a safe,clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • To protection against discrimination and have equal protection of the law, in relation to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • To freedom from threats, harassment, intimidation and violence whilst working on human rights and the environment.
  • To freedom of expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • To freedom of association and peaceful assembly in relation to environmental matters.
  • To self-determination; to freely determine your political status and freely pursue your economic, social and cultural development.
  • To, for your own ends, freely dispose of your natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
  • To not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • To not be subjected to arbitrary interference with your privacy, family or home.

Procedural Rights

  • To seek, receive, and impart environmental information.
  • To participate in public decision-making about environmental matters.
  • To equal access to public service in his country
  • To effective legal remedies for violations of these rights.   
  • To be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against one.
  • To be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power, after arrest, and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.
  • To compensation after unlawful arrest or detention

State Obligations

States have an obligation to protect environmental rights. This involves ensuring the provision of the above rights as well as the obligations:

  • To require the prior assessment of the possible environmental and human rights impacts of policies and projects.
  • To ensure that they comply with their obligations to indigenous peoples and members of traditional communities.
  • To ensure the effective enforcement of their environmental standards against public and private actors.

Private Sector Obligations

Business have a responsibility to respect environmental rights. This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved. This includes the obligations:

  • To develop policies that respect environmental rights
  • To undertake due dilligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights
  • To create processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts that they cause or to which they contribute​​​​


The following sources were used to make this compilation:

* Not all States have formally accepted all these norms. Find out Country rights' statuses here.