The UN General Assembly is currently considering a resolution to recognize the right to a healthy environment during the 76th session this July. In October of 2021, the UN Human Rights Council passed a similar resolution with 43 votes in the affirmative and 0 dissents. A vote at the UN General Assembly is expected on Friday, July 29.
The Environmental Law Institute hosted a series of 3 webinars looking at what passing this UN General Assembly resolution could mean at the UN level, US level, and sub-national level. Our own Advisory Circle member, James May who is a Distinguished Professor of Law, Widener University Delaware Law School and Founder of the Global Environmental Rights Institute, moderated the first panel and was a speaker in the third panel.
What a UN Resolution Recognizing the Right to a Healthy Environment Could Mean in the US and for Maryland?
Validates Recognizing the Right to a Healthy Environment
A resolution that is passed by the UN General Assembly sends a unified and global message to the US and individual states that a healthy environment is essential to the fulfillment of all other human rights.
Catalyst for Change at a Country and Sub-National Level
Historically, UN Resolutions have been catalysts for change at a country and sub-national level. When the UN passed a resolution recognizing the right to clean water and sanitation it inspired action in Mexico, where the governor recognized this right and implemented clean water programs in 1,000 communities.
Having the UN General Assembly pass the resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment could be an important bellwether for the Maryland legislature. It demonstrates how the world views a healthy environment as fundamental to all other human rights.
American Bar Association Led Advocacy Efforts for UN Resolution in the US
The American Bar Association was a strong supporter and advocate for this UN resolution and was instrumental in helping to shift the US position. The ABA and others built support among 120,000 individuals, 1500 NGO’s and 50 businesses. MDEHR is excited about connecting with key stakeholders within the ABA to learn more about their successful advocacy efforts and how we could apply learnings to our work here in Maryland.
Embedding this Right in Our Constitution is Essential
MDEHR is thrilled at the momentum behind passing this UN resolution and we view it as a bellwether moment in elevating the importance of a healthy environment to our very human life. But we can’t stop here. The Maryland Environmental Policy Act includes this fundamental right to a healthy environment, but it is largely ignored. Embedding this right in our state constitution means that individuals do not need to wait on a government or legislature that may or may not act to enforce this right or provide remedy.
We are not alone in demanding this right be recognized in Maryland. One hundred-fifty countries already recognize this right in constitutions or through legislation or international covenants or policy. Seven states in the US have this right protected in their state constitutions. Including the right to a healthy environment in a constitution provides accountability that we need from our government.
If you value your right to a healthy environment, join MDEHR in taking action to support amending the Maryland state constitution to protect this right.
- Sign the petition here as an individual,
- Ask your organization to sign our letter of support here, and
- Sign up for Ambassador training to help educate groups and individuals in your community