“Over 100 countries around the world have so far guaranteed their citizens the right to a healthy and clean environment; however, the enforcement part of such initiatives has been a challenge,” – Arnold Kreilhuber, Deputy Director of the Law Division, UN Environment.
In 2017, UN Environment agreed on the need for a common and coherent approach to promote greater protection for environmental defenders. UN Environment’s Environmental Defenders Policy Paper was developed over several months in close consultation with human rights experts and civil society organizations.
The Environmental Defenders Policy promotes greater protection for individuals and groups who are defending their environmental rights and identifies solutions to mitigate the abuse of environmental rights which affects a growing number of people in many parts of the world.
UN Environment seeks to support the upholding of environmental rights and opposes the growing wave of violence against environmental defenders as well as the prevailing impunity with which these acts are being committed.
Through this policy, UN Environment will:
- Contribute to ending the threats, restrictions and violence against environmental defenders;
- Assist States to address crucial issues related to environmental rights, and encourage States to recognize and support the role of ordinary citizens in environmental protection, and indigenous peoples and local communities;
- Respond directly to the three pillars of the UN, and the Secretary General’s priorities on peace and security, development, and human rights, as well as the UN System-Wide Action Plan for coherent implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Support the implementation of and adherence to the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
- Promote the critical role of the rule of law in environmental matters; and
- Encourage initiatives in the public, non-governmental and private sectors with the aim of ensuring greater respect and support for the rights of environmental defenders.
In addition, UN Environment will continue to work with judges around the world to develop and implement environmental constitutional provisions that will secure environmental rights.
UN Environment is also largely encouraging civil society groups, faith-based organizations, law and policy makers, judges, prosecutors, national human rights institutions, regional human rights organizations, and citizens, indigenous and local communities and their leaders, to be at the core of this initiative. Please find links to the Environmental Defenders Policy Paper below in six languages: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish
For comments or information, please contact Niamh.Brannigan@unep.org.