Right to a Healthy Environment Global Coalition Wins UN Human Rights Prize

Today,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 is one of the recipients of the prestigious 2023 United Nations Human Rights Prize.

Franciscans International is proud to be a member of this coalition, which receives the prize for its role in advocating for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly in 2022.

The UN Human Rights Prize is awarded to up to five recipients once every five years. This year is the first time it has been granted to a coalition. The award will be presented in New York on 10 December, a date that also marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A collective effort

This achievement was only possible thanks to tireless efforts that began decades ago and resulted in thousands of people from across the globe joining forces to achieve a milestone: the recognition by the United Nations of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The award highlights the importance of collaborating to advance the much-needed protection for our planet and the fulfillment of human rights. Alone, no organization, movement, or person would have been able to achieve this goal. Together, a diverse global coalition made this a reality.

“The only way to realize a healthy environment for all is through sustained, unrelenting, and collective action. It is an encouragement to us all that the UN has decided to award this prize to a large, diverse, and global coalition that has found itself unified in this one critical goal – to preserve our common home in a time of crisis. The recognition of the right itself – and with it the acknowledgment that human dignity and the world around us are inextricably linked – resonates deeply in the Franciscan tradition.”

Markus Heinze OFM
Executive Director

Awarding the prize to a diverse coalition also highlights the need to protect participatory spaces for everyone. As civic space continues to shrink around the world, environmental human rights defenders have been among those most at risk. This prize is a strong reminder that it is essential to respect those working to place the protection of people and the planet at the forefront of policy making and global governance.

A recognition that calls for action

This announcement arrives just a few days ahead of the 28 July anniversary of the General Assembly’s recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Since then, millions have continued to experience the cumulative and accelerating impacts of the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, exacerbated by systemic inequalities, that is contributing to ongoing violations of the right to a healthy environment around the world.

This prize emphasizes that States must step up their efforts to make this right a reality. It is both a recognition and a call to action for governments, businesses, institutions, and people worldwide to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is effectively guaranteed and legally protected so that it can be enjoyed by all.

“We have already seen some States take steps to better protect this right following its recognition. While these are encouraging signs, there must be further, more expansive action. With the members of this coalition and our grassroots partners, we will continue to work to monitor and advocate for implementation of this right.”  

Marya Farah
Representative to the UN in New York