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NCF, others launch global campaign on right to healthy planet

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Worried by the growing depletion of natural resources, civil society organisations around the world have called on the United Nations to declare a universal right to a healthy environment. If the move pulls through, the amendment would be the first addition to the declaration since it came to life in 1948.

The campaign, dedicated to establishing the new human right, is led by the world’s largest conservation partnership, BirdLife International. Others in the forefront of the call include, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and other civil society organisations such as, ClientEarth and the Global Pact for Environment.

The Chief Executive Officer, BirdLife International, Patricia Zurita said, “Our planet’s health is our health. If our planet is sick, we become sick. And right now, our planet has never been more ill. The survival of humanity is already threatened by the climate and biodiversity crises, and this pandemic has pushed us one step closer to the brink. In order to transform, and save society, the starting point must be to ensure that every person has the same baseline – guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy planet.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr. David Boyd, has also endorsed the campaign. The group sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, on Earth Day officially making the request for a new human right, and will now continue putting pressure on the UN by launching a global petition.

The groups also urged the United Nations to vote and include the right to a healthy natural environment at the UN Human Rights Council, in the UN General Assembly and as an urgent topic at the UN Summit on Biodiversity in mid-September 2020, in order to ultimately include the right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 2023.

The campaign will be running until 2023, when it hopes that the right will be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to mark its 75th anniversary.

Hundreds of millions of people suffer from illnesses related to unhealthy and unnatural environments. According to the World Health Organisation, “an estimated 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to unhealthy environments”, such as air pollution, inadequate water sanitation, and the impacts of climate change.

Dr. Boyd said, “The right to a healthy planet, as a universally recognized human right, would be a powerful addition to the toolkit for saving the planet. The right to a healthy environment already provides the foundation for much of the progress we are seeing in different nations around the globe.

“What we need to do now is seize this moment of global eco-crisis to secure United Nations recognition of this right so that everyone, everywhere benefits. The human right to a healthy planet, if recognised by all nations, could be the most important human right of the 21st century.”

According to World Health Organisation, 23 per cent of global deaths are linked to the damage and destruction of the natural environment, while hundreds of millions of people suffer from illnesses related to unhealthy and unnatural environment.

Climate change directly results in more frequent and intense storms, droughts, wildfires and rising sea levels, which in turn threaten the lives of billions of people. The COVID-19 pandemic has its roots in habitat loss, and illegal wildlife trade. This new human right can help ensure that the global green recovery the world needs to rebuild society following the pandemic takes both the biodiversity and the climate emergencies into account.

Speaking on the campaign, the Director General of Nigerian Conservation Foundation, (NCF), Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano explained that humans are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for their health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter, and energy.

In return, he said, the environment demands more attention from people, government, corporate organisation and the individual, hence, the need to protect it from absolute collapse.


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