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Human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment
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Human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment

Every year, Human Rights Day falls on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

In 1950, the Assembly passed Resolution 423(V), inviting all states and organizations to adopt 10 December each year as Human Rights Day.

This declaration was drawn up by representatives of different legal and cultural backgrounds from all parts of the globe. It establishes universal values and a common standard in achievement for all peoples. It recognizes every person’s dignity and worth. Together with states’ commitments to its principles, the declaration has uplifted the dignity of millions and laid the foundation for a more just world.

In 2015, UN member countries unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was a decade later. Human rights and sustainable development were at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. All these goals are driven forward by advances in human right. Human rights are influenced by the progress made towards achieving them.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24%, or roughly 13.7 Million deaths per year, are due to environmental risks like chemical exposure and air pollution.

Unsustainable development, climate change, and environmental degradation are the most serious threats to the future and present generations’ ability to enjoy human rights. This includes the right to life, the right to health, development, housing and water, as well as the rights to food and water.

The human rights implications that environmental damage has on the human rights of the population are most acutely felt in those segments of society that are already vulnerable, such as indigenous peoples, older individuals, persons with disabilities, and women and girls.

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All stakeholders lauded the passing of resolution 48/13 at the UN Human Rights Council’s 48th session in Oct 2021. All parties recognize the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for the first-ever time.

Resolution 48/13 urged states to develop capacities, share best practices, and work together to implement this newly recognized right.

It was also noted that the right of a safe, clean and healthy environment is linked to other rights under international law such as the Paris Agreement 2015 and the Minamata Convention 2013.

A second related resolution (48/14) was passed by the council. It established a special reporteur to promote and protect human rights worldwide in the context climate change. Both resolutions were cosponsored by Malaysia.

Malaysia’s priority in addressing climate changes is part of its pledges to be a member of the Human Rights Council for 2022-2024. It is also in line to the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025), a blueprint for inclusive, prosperous and sustainable growth that was revealed by the prime minister.

The 2021 Human Rights Day forum, which celebrated this positive development, focused on the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on human rights enjoyment, as well as sustainable environmental solutions. This multi-stakeholder panel session will offer different perspectives on the subject.

These were the main goals of the forum:

  • To commemorate Human Rights Day, which is celebrated every 10 December
  • To increase public awareness and support for human right and the work of various organisations, including government departments that are dedicated to promoting them.
  • To encourage cooperation between different stakeholders, especially the government, NGOs and civil societies.
  • To increase awareness about the impact of climate change and environmental degradation upon human rights

Organised jointly by:

  • Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Suhakam
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Prime Ministers Department Legal Affairs Division
  • The UN Malaysia
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