Global Coalition for the Right to a Healthy Environment Receives UN Human Rights Prize

Franciscans International is proud to be a member of the diverse global coalition that received the UN Human Rights Prize today. Awarded once every five years, the prestigious prize acknowledges the vital role played by this coalition in advocating for the recognition by UN Member States of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

This achievement was only possible through tireless efforts that began more than a decade ago and resulted in thousands of organizations and people from across the world joining together to spur the United Nations to recognize this right – first in 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council and subsequently in 2022 by the UN General Assembly.

The award was accepted in New York on behalf of the coalition by six representatives from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The diverse nature of this group not only represents the reach of the coalition but also exemplifies the global relevance of the right to a healthy environment as an integral part of the enjoyment of all other human rights.

The Global Coalition of Civil Society, Indigenous Peoples, Social Movements, and Local Communities for the Universal Recognition of the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment brings together over 1.350 organizations from 75 countries.

In our own work at FI, this intersection and the new avenues for advocacy that are opened up by the recognition of this right are also evident. In Asia-Pacific and the Americas for example, unchecked business activities have severely affected the lives of Indigenous Peoples and other communities that traditionally rely on their natural environment for their livelihoods.

Also in the Americas, as well as in Africa, environmental degradation is exacerbating migration flows and internal displacement. Both at the grassroots and in global processes such as the UN Climate Conferences, the right to a healthy environment can be a foundation for inclusive and rights-based policies that seek to combat the triple-planetary crisis and its impacts.

“Awarding the Human Rights Prize underscores the universality of the right to a healthy environment. We all need clean air, adequate and sustainable food, water and sanitation, and other elements of the right to survive and thrive,” said Budi Tjahjono, FI’s International Advocacy Director. “Already, 161 States have enshrined this right in their domestic legislation. While this is encouraging, it is only the start: we must and will continue our work to fully implement this human right for all.”

FI has continued to advocate for the right’s inclusion in other spaces and outcome documents, to ensure coherence across the UN.  FI is also currently conducting consultations and research for a new publication that we expect to launch in early 2024. By looking at concrete cases, this document will aim to fill existing gaps in understanding around the newly recognized right and offer tools to grassroots activists and community leaders who seek to protect and realize the right to a healthy environment.

As we celebrate the Human Rights Award, we remain committed to working with all our partners and continuing the long road toward implementation and the enjoyment of the right to a healthy environment for all.