What are human rights?
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, political views, or any other marker of difference. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. You can find more information here. The UN’s Declaration of Human Rights comprises a broad range of 30 internationally accepted rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. You can find a summary here.
What role does the United Nations play?
The United Nations is responsible for creating and supervising a comprehensive body of human rights law: a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire. International human rights law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lays down the obligations of governments to act in certain ways, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.
Has the United Nations recognised the importance of nature access in any other way?
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals presuppose the importance of human connection to nature, without yet recognising it explicitly as a human right. Making access to nature a human right is not only consistent with, but reinforced and supported by, many of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Good Health & Wellbeing, Reduced Inequalities and Sustainable Cities.
Similarly, its Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment discusses human rights in relation to inhabited environments, without recognising the importance of access to nature in itself. The principles skirt the topic, with principles including imperatives to “avoid undertaking or authorising actions with environmental impacts that interfere with the full enjoyment of human rights” (we argue that nature deprivation should fall under this) and to “establish and maintain substantive environmental standards that are non-discriminatory, non-retrogressive and otherwise respect, protect and fulfil human rights” (which we believe should preclude environmental inequality and nature deprivation).
What is the process to get a human right recognised by the United Nations?
"The process is kind of a two-step process. Countries pushing the initiative forward envision that first they’ll go to the UN’s Human Rights Council and pass a resolution there that recognises the right. And then they’ll bump it from there to the United Nations General Assembly.
The theory of change is that, once you have a United Nations resolution that ideally is supported by all of the countries of the world, it serves as a catalyst for change throughout the entire international and national legal systems. So you would see changes at the national level in terms of more countries putting the right to a healthy natural environment into their constitutions. You would see countries strengthening their environmental laws to ensure that they’re able to actually fulfil this right." – David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Environment and Human Rights
What will change as a result of making access to nature a human right?
Governments and local authorities will have to proactively consider citizens’ access to nature when developing new urban environments (green town planning and architecture, in particular social housing) and reactively adapt any current urban areas that do not meet this requirement (depaving and rewilding). They will also have to consider access to nature at an individual level, ensuring no one gets left behind. This will reduce environmental inequality and increase quality of life for human beings around the world.
A further desirable outcome is that ‘time in nature’ joins the ‘five a day’ of fruit and vegetables and regular exercise as official health advice from the World Health Organisation.
What about conservation areas?
This petition aims for every human being to have access to a nearby natural environment, not to every natural environment. We don't suggest that every natural environment should become accessible to every human being – natural spaces under special protection would rightly remain so.
How can I support Nature is a Human Right?
Please sign the petition and share with as many people as you can.
To get involved as a champion of the campaign, or to request campaign materials, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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