Image: Right to a Healthy Environment Global Coalition


Right to a Healthy Environment Global Coalition wins UN Human Rights Prize

Today, the Global Coalition of Civil Society, Indigenous Peoples, Social Movements, and Local Communities for the Universal Recognition of the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment is one of the recipients of the prestigious 2023 United Nations Human Rights Prize. The coalition is awarded for its essential role in advocating for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in July 2022.

The UN Human Rights Prize is awarded once every five years to several recipients at a time. This year is the first time that it has been granted to a global coalition. The prize will be presented in New York on 10 December, which also marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making this recognition even more special. 

This achievement was only possible thanks to tireless efforts that began decades ago and resulted in thousands of people from all across the globe joining forces to achieve a milestone: the recognition by the United Nations of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environmentFirst and foremost, the award highlights the importance of collaborating to advance the much-needed protection of our planet and fulfillment of human rights. Alone, no organisation, movement, or person would have been able to achieve the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. Together, a diverse global coalition made this a reality. 

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A year ago, human rights defenders worldwide welcomed the historic adoption of a resolution recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Coming after almost five decades of activism, the UN resolution provides a powerful new tool to address the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and deadly pollution. Today, we are delighted that this award recognises the crucial, collaborative work of defenders for a world that is more equal and fair, on a healthy planet. We call for all States to now stand up and make the resolution a reality for the lives of all people on Earth!
Pooja Patel, Programme Director, International Service for Human Rights

Furthermore, the prize recognises the need to protect participatory spaces for everyone. As civic spaces are worryingly shrinking and many human rights and environmental defenders are under attack worldwide, the award sends a strong reminder: It is essential to respect and strengthen spaces for participation and collaboration. The protection of civic spaces and the respect and support for all human rights defenders is essential for the effective implementation of this newly recognised right. The right also is an integral component of environmental justice and democracy and provides a seamless path to protecting the rights of future generations.

At a time when civic space is under threat around the world, the UN Prize for Human Rights for the campaign for universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment is testament to the power of collective effort and the importance of civil society in shaping a fairer, greener future. Together, we must now push for further constitutional and statutory recognition of the right so that it delivers tangible benefits for people and the planet.
Elaine Geyer-Allély, Interim Leader, Global Governance Practice, WWF International

This announcement arrives just a few days ahead of the 28 July anniversary of the UNGA’s recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Since then, millions have continued to experience the cumulative and accelerating impacts of the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, exacerbated by systemic inequalities, that is contributing to ongoing violations of the right to a healthy environment around the world. This prize emphasises that today more than ever, States must make this right a reality. It is both a recognition and a call to action for governments, businesses, institutions, and people worldwide to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is effectively guaranteed and legally protected so that it can be enjoyed by all. 

Read the reactions from the members of the coalition here. Read the coalition’s press release here.

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