The Right to an Adequate/Healthy Environment

All individuals are entitled to live in an environment adequate for their health and well-being.

UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/45/94

What is the Right to an Adequate or Healthy Environment?

Everyone has the right to an adequate environment. An adequate environment is considered a precondition for the realization of other human rights including rights to life, food, health and an adequate standard of living. This is partly referenced in the right to health set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which notes that States must realise the right to health through, among other steps, the improvement of all aspects of environmental hygiene. It has also been recognised in a wide range of regional human rights instruments, such as the San Salvador Protocol, as well through the establishment of a UN Special Procedures mandate on human rights and the environment in 2012.

Everyone should be able to live in an environment conducive for their health and well-being. States should take concrete and progressive steps, individually and in cooperation with each other, to develop, implement and maintain appropriate frameworks to enable all components necessary for a healthy, sustainable environment, which encompasses all parts of the natural world. This includes the regulation of corporate and other private actors in their domestic and extraterritorial operations.

In accordance with well‑established principles of international law, including the provisions of the ICESCR, international cooperation for development and for the realisation of human rights is an obligation of all States. Such collaboration and support, especially on the part of States able to assist others, is particularly important in addressing transnational impacts on environmental conditions, such as climate change.

Photo Credit: CIAT CC.

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