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UN Human Rights Council approves right to healthy environment

BREAKING: In a landmark historical moment, the UN Human Rights Council has unanimously voted in favour of introducing a new human right: the right to a healthy environment.

This fantastic success is the result more than a year of advocacy from the #1Planet1Right campaign, launched and led by the BirdLife Partnership.

Back in early 2020, with COVID-19 rampaging around the globe, BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita spoke with Asuncion Ruiz, head of our Spanish Partner SEO/BirdLife, about upping the BirdLife family’s public advocacy for a healthy planet. Knowing that the destruction of nature is often the root cause of zoonotic pandemics, they enlisted the power of the BirdLife Partnership in launching the #1Planet1Right campaign, calling for the right for a healthy environment to be enshrined in law.

With catchy graphics, a simple petition, no budget and a great, toe-tapping anthem, the campaign brought the idea of the right to a healthy planet to the public’s imagination, boosted behind the scenes by the expert lobbying of the BirdLife policy team. The #1Planet1Right petition now has over 120,000 signatures and has gained the endorsement of hundreds of organisations and prestigious figures, including Greta Thunberg and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. In addition, BirdLife was one of 1,350 organisations to add their voices to a joint letter to the Human Rights Council as part of the wider #HealthyEnvironmentForAll campaign. As a result of this tireless campaigning, this afternoon history was made.

The original Universal Declaration of Human Rights was forged from the ashes of humanity’s last global crisis, World War II, when environmental degradation was yet to become the planetary emergency it is now. It therefore fails to include rights relating to the environment. Establishing this new universal right now will therefore be critical in helping us to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a similarly symbolic and decisive political change.

So what’s next? With the proposed right now headed for the UN’s General Assembly, watch this space and share the #1Planet1Right campaign with as wide a circle of your friends and family as you can. With the UN Biodiversity Convention next week and the UN Climate Conference next month, BirdLife is firing on all cylinders for birds and biodiversity – and the right for all of us to live on a healthy planet.

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