The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) welcomed the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in recognizing access to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a fundamental human right.
“We thank the 43 out of the 47 United Nations’ Human Rights Council members who voted in favor of the resolution during the General Assembly held on Oct. 8, 2021,” read the PMPI statement released on October 15.
“This is a welcome development for all environmental advocates as well as with human rights defenders,” said the group.
Yolly Esguerra, PMPI national coordinator, said “a healthy environment means healthy people” and “when we protect nature, it also means we are defending the rights of humans whose lives and livelihood are dependent on the health of the environment.”
She said the UNHRC resolution is “one step forward towards achieving the recognition of the rights of nature.”
In its statement, PMPI said it considers the UNHRC resolution as “a historic breakthrough.”
“By institutionalizing this principle, people and communities are now empowered to challenge and engage governments and duty bearers for violating their human rights,” it said.
“When you have a policy that recognizes the connection of a healthy environment to the fulfilment of human rights, it will surely strengthen future arguments in order to win cases involving the protection of the rights of the environment,” said Esguerra.
She said that when the government allows mining companies to operate and destroy the environment “we can challenge them for violating both our human rights and nature’s rights in the court.”
“This sends a powerful message to all stakeholders of environmental protection,” Esguerra said.
PMPI said that although the resolution is not legally binding, “it will help shape international standards in defending human and nature’s rights and in changing the current global system that marginalizes nature and the poor.”
On October 8, the UN Human Rights Council voted to recognize the right to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment as a human right.
The Council also voted to appoint an expert to monitor human rights in the context of the climate emergency and called on countries to advance environmental protection.
The Philippines, with 42 other UN member-states, voted yes to the proposal while four countries – China, Russia, India, and Japan – abstained.
The resolution has been endorsed by UN Secretary General António Guterres, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and 15 UN agencies, and was supported by young activists, business groups and more than 1,300 civil society organizations from around the world.
Pro-environment groups in the Philippines called on the government to translate the resolution into “stronger implementation and enactment of domestic laws” aimed to protect the environment.