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

In the spring of 2020 with covid ravaging the planet, BirdLife’s then CEO Patricia Zurita and SEO/BirdLife’s CEO Asuncion Ruiz launched the BirdLife Partnership’s 1Planet1Right campaign to engage the public in supporting the universal human right to a healthy planet - a movement already well-established in human rights and environmental circles.

Both women saw the need for a public facing campaign to add to the sophisticated UN policy advocacy efforts.

BirdLife’s 1Planet1Right Campaign recognised as part of 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

Today, the movement they joined was recognised for its essential role in advocating for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in July 2022. The UN Human Rights Prize is awarded once every five years to several recipients at a time. This year is the first time that it has been granted to a global coalition. The prize will be presented in New York on December 10, which also marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making this recognition even more special. 

“The awarding of this prize to a global coalition for the first time in history underscores our belief in the ‘power of many’.  Now the right to a healthy environment is a human right, it’s time to make it a reality!”

Noelle Kumpel, BirdLife Policy Senior Advisor

This achievement was only possible thanks to tireless efforts that began decades ago and resulted in thousands of people from all 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. First and foremost, the award highlights the importance of collaborating to advance the much-needed protection of our planet and fulfillment of human rights. Alone, no organization, movement, or person would have been able to achieve the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. Together, a diverse global coalition made this a reality. 

Furthermore, the prize recognizes the need to protect participatory spaces for everyone. As civic spaces are worryingly shrinking and many human rights and environmental defenders are under attack worldwide, the award sends a strong reminder: It is essential to respect and strengthen spaces for participation and collaboration. The protection of civic spaces and the respect and support for all human rights defenders is essential for the effective implementation of this newly recognized right. The right also is an integral component of environmental justice and democracy and provides a seamless path to protecting the rights of future generations.

This announcement arrives just a few days ahead of the July 28 anniversary of the UNGA’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 today more than ever, States must 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. The fight is on, and BirdLife’s 120 global partners are fully committed to winning.

BirdLife’s 1Planet1Right Anthem

“SEO/BirdLife is enormously proud to have contributed to perhaps the largest coordinated campaign in BirdLife International. And the one that may have had the greatest effect across the BirdLife community and across the planet. Through our #1Planet1Right campaign we joined forces with many others who were already fighting for this universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and with others who followed… until it was finally achieved. The usefulness of ‘the power of many’ was clear in this campaign, which also reflected many other values in which we deeply believe in at SEO/BirdLife and which form the basis of our daily work, demanding and protecting, with passion, rigor, commitment, solidarity… this clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as the only guarantee for the future. Our joy is immense at the recognition of the work of the global coalition by the United Nations Human Rights Prize 2023. But this award should also give us even more strength to continue to pursue the effective implementation of this new universal human right to which BirdLife International has contributed so much, and to make our planet a place where humanity and nature can truly live in peace and harmony.”

Asunción Ruiz

CEO SEO/BirdLife

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