The UN Adopts a Historic Resolution

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – On 28 July, the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution, declaring access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment a universal human right. Based on a similar text adopted last year by the Human Rights Council, the resolution calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.

    “The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples,” comments the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. “The international community has given universal recognition to this right and brought us closer to making it a reality for all.”

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    The text was adopted almost unanimously, with 161 votes in favour and eight abstentions[1]. Initially presented by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland last June and now co-sponsored by over 100 countries, it states that the right to a healthy environment is related to existing international law and affirms that its promotion requires the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

    The resolution also recognises that the impact of climate change, the unsustainable management and use of natural resources, the pollution of air, land and water, the unsound management of chemicals and waste, and the resulting loss in biodiversity interfere with the enjoyment of this right – and that environmental damage has negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.

    “From a foothold in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, the right has been integrated into constitutions, national laws, and regional agreements,” comments the UN Environment chief, Inger Andersen. “Today’s decision elevates the right to where it belongs: universal recognition,” she adds.

    The newly recognised right will be crucial to tackling the triple planetary crisis. Climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss are all mentioned in the text of the resolution.

    “Today is a historic moment, but simply affirming our right to a healthy environment is not enough. The General Assembly resolution is very clear: States must implement their international commitments and scale up their efforts to realise it. We will all suffer much worse effects from environmental crises, if we do not work together to collectively avert them now,” says the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

    [1] States who abstained: China, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cambodia, Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia.

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.
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