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Speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Preventing extinctions and halting biodiversity loss through laws, legal rights and human rights frameworks

01 October 2020

   HC Video message for Nature Rules: A New Accord with Nature

Nature for Life Hub Event taking place on 25 September. Maximum length – 3 minutes (approximately 400 words)

Greetings! I am proud to support the Nature for Life Hub in addressing biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution threaten all human rights including those to water, food, health, housing, culture, development and life.

The most affected are often those already in vulnerable situations.

Integration of human rights in environmental action can help avert environmental harms, reduce inequality, and ensure sustainable development.

Under human rights law, we must protect those who protect our planet.

We must also empower people from diverse backgrounds to exercise their rights to participation, access to information and access to justice in environmental matters.

We must respect knowledge of natural systems and agro-ecological strategies held by women and girls, indigenous peoples and local communities.

We must act as one.

Businesses, NGOs, foundations,  we are all responsible for respecting human rights and ensuring we do no harm with respect to biodiversity, genetic resources and ecosystem services.

However, States hold the primary obligation to prevent human rights harms from biodiversity loss.

The Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights makes clear that the UN system should support State efforts to advance and implement the right to a healthy environment.

My Office is doing so.

We are calling for global recognition and effective implementation of the human right to a healthy environment.
And we are not alone.

I recently received a Global Call for the UN to Recognize the Right to a Healthy Environment from more than 900 organizations representing peoples around the world.

Now is the time.

An equitable and sustainable response and recovery to COVID-19 must recognize the links between environmental protection and fulfilment of human rights.

Global recognition of the right to a healthy environment would be a step forward.

So would be integrating human rights in rules for nature, including those negotiated as part of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. They should:

  • Call for biodiversity actions to respect, protect and fulfil human rights
  • Support the enjoyment by all persons, groups and peoples, of their cultural, religious, recreational and spiritual values and practices related to biodiversity.
  • Ensure business responsibility for biodiversity, genetic resources and ecosystem services in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Protect environmental human rights defenders from harm.
  • Guarantee the rights to participation, access to information and to justice.
  • Recognize and protect indigenous peoples and local communities rights to their traditional lands, resources and territories

Taking action together, we can improve outcomes for people and planet, now and in the future.

Thank you.