Photo: © Dimitar Gradinarov

UN Members States have voted to recognize the right to a healthy environment as a human right! With 161 votes for, 0 against, and 8 abstentions.

Although not legally binding, this unequivocal statement is a powerful force for action. António Guterres, the UN Secretary General saluted the vote, saying that, ”the well-being of people around the world and the survival of future generations depends on the health of our planet.”

In the spring of 2020, as COVID struck, the planet came face to face with just one of the dramatic and catastrophic effects of trashing nature and the planet.  Moved by that the CEO of the Spanish BirdLife partner, SEO/BirdLife , Asuncion Ruiz, went to Patricia Zurita, BirdLife’s CEO, with the idea to create a public push for the universal human right to a healthy planet.  The two decided to leap off the cliff together and engage the global BirdLife partnership in somewhat unfamiliar terrain. The website and the campaign were born. They enlisted Special Rapporteur for the environment and human rights Dr. David Boyd and Professor Philippe Sands to advise them. They brought in Patagonia, Client Earth and The Global Pact to work with them.  And BirdLife policy mavens, Melanie Heath, Noelle Kumpel and Amy McDougall led a relentless and patient campaign with colleagues across civil society in the smoke-filled corridors of global policy lobbying.

And miracle of miracles, yesterday afternoon, 28 July 2022, in New York, the United Nations General Assembly heeded their call, and that of many others in civil society, local and indigenous communities.

This is a historic moment for environmental rights.