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2019 Global Citizenship Review
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Global Citizenship
Pro Bono

The right to a healthy environment

Our analysis helps the UN Special Rapporteur advise the United Nations 

The recognition of the right to a healthy environment at a global level will act as a catalyst for the strengthening of constitutions and laws around the world and serve as a beacon for countries to work towards. Ultimately, this will have a tangible impact on people’s lives.

Dr. David R. Boyd, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

While most countries include some national or local-level recognition of the importance of the right to a healthy environment, it is by no means universal nor has the United Nations recognized it as a right.

We are working as part of a consortium of law firms under the auspices of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice to assess existing constitutions and laws in 193 countries to inform a report to the UN Human Rights Council on the right of citizens to a healthy environment.

UN Special Rapporteur Dr. David R. Boyd, appointed in August 2018 to report to the UN Human Rights Council on human rights and the environment, will be presenting a full report in early 2020. The report will include a summary of what is already in place around the world and a number of recommendations for the UN to consider. The objective is a UN resolution, ideally as soon as 2020, recognizing that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right that belongs to everyone, no matter where they live.

This project expands upon our existing focus on protecting both human rights and the environment and gives our lawyers the opportunity to contribute to an impactful synergy between the two.

Jacquelyn MacLennan, Global Pro Bono Practice Leader, partner, Brussels

“The recognition of the right to a healthy environment at a global level will act as a catalyst for the strengthening of constitutions and laws around the world and serve as a beacon for countries to work towards,” said Dr. Boyd. “Ultimately, this will have a tangible impact on people’s lives.”

Thirty associates and legal staff in 12 offices, led by nine partners, are responsible for analyzing 27 of the 193 countries. Brussels partner and Global Pro Bono Practice Leader Jacquelyn MacLennan said, “This project expands upon our existing focus on protecting both human rights and the environment and gives our lawyers the opportunity to contribute to an impactful synergy between the two.”

Dr. Boyd points to the recognition by the UN in 2010 that everyone has the human right to clean water and adequate sanitization. In the decade that followed, many countries changed their constitution to recognize these rights while also allocating resources and implementing projects that provided increased access to water and sanitation.

“A UN resolution may seem abstract, but millions of people can have their lives changed for the better as a result,” he said.

Image: // Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India, 1999
© Steve McCurry / Magnum Photos

 

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