Two landmark decisions on the environment at the United Nations

On 8 October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council overwhelmingly voted to support two resolutions that underline the urgency of the global environmental crisis and affirm the central role of human rights in any meaningful solutions and mitigation efforts. Franciscans International warmly welcomed both decisions, which followed years of sustained collective advocacy by civil society.

In the years leading up to the vote, FI has focused part of its international advocacy towards linking human rights and the environment, demanding more environmental justice. In doing so, we were not only echoing concrete concerns of Franciscans and other partners living and working with local communities but also following key Franciscan values and spiritual teachings: the care for our planet.

With resolution A/HRC/48/L.23, the Council recognized a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. While many countries are already recognizing such a right in their national and regional laws, until recently, there was no such recognition at the universal level.  

“In the context of the multiple environmental crises of pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change, such a recognition is the least the main human rights body of the UN could do for present and future generations,” said Sandra Epal Ratjen, FI’s International Advocacy Director. “The adoption of this resolution is a strong political signal and will be a key stepping stone for further advances in the promotion and protection of this right worldwide.”

The Council also adopted resolution A/HRC/48/L.27, creating a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change. FI called for the establishment of this a mandate as early as 2010 and has since consistently raised its importance to analyze and advise on the impacts that climate change but also that climate responses have on the rights of people, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged.

“FI warmly welcomes this much needed and overdue decision,” said Epal Ratjen. “The last IPCC report shows that the international community needs to urgently ramp up its coordinated efforts for climate justice, radically raising and respecting ambitions, while putting the rights of the affected communities at the core.”