Environment Essay: The evolution of the linkage between the environment and human rights

The United Nations ( UN ) Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, declared that: adult male ‘s environment, the natural and the man-made, are indispensable to his wellbeing and to the enjoyment of basic human rightseven the right to life itself.

Today, the relationship between the environment and human rights has long been recognised and has evolved in many ways. This essay will try to analyze the connexion between the environment and human rights. Because of restrictions on length, it will loosely put human rights within the model of a holistic position of development ( i.e. , one that lends importance to more that merely economic development ) . It will besides discourse their relationship within the discourse of Sustainable Development, a chief construct associating the environment and human rights.

The UN Conference on the Human Environment was held at a clip when development discourse was dominated by theories of dependence, universe systems, and manners of production. The Stockholm conference significantly acknowledged that environmental issues are best handled with the engagement of all concerned citizens, and in that capacity established non merely the importance of prolonging the environment because it provides for life and basic human rights, but besides the importance of prolonging basic human rights in an effort to support the environment. Though the demand to protect the environment had long been recognised, this conference paved the manner for the environment and development to be discussed as a individual issue something that did non happen until the Brundtland Report in 1987.

The Brundtland Report launched the term Sustainable Development ( SD ) , or development that meets the demands of the present without compromising the ability of future coevalss to run into their demands ( WCED, 1987: 43 ) . Although it is frequently regarded as a perilously slippy construct ( The Economist, 2002 ) the common feature of most definitions of the term is the accent on equity both across and within coevalss. Barrow ( 1995: 17 ) identifies ten subjects that characterise conventional SD:

– care of ecological unity ;
– integrating of environmental attention and development ;
– acceptance of an international stance ;
– satisfaction of basic human demands for all ;
– emphasis for normative planning ;
– emphasis on application of scientific discipline to development jobs ;
– credence of some economic growing ;
– attaching a proper value to the natural and cultural environment ;
– the acceptance of a long-run position of development ; and, once more
– a call for inter- every bit good as intra- generational equality

SD has introduced and affirmed many new constructs into the development sphere including, but non limited to, a rights-based attack to development and the importance of the environment. The environment played a cardinal function in the Brundtland Report, and it was later attacked for being eco-centric.

The Brundtland Report was followed up by the UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Though the Rio conference set in gesture a tendency towards human ( instead than environmental ) rights, it still held the environment in the spotlight. Furthermore, ‘rights to information, engagement and redresss in regard to environmental conditions ‘ formed the focal point of the Rio declaration ( Shelton, 2002: 2 ) , therefore stressing the importance of human rights in environmental protection.

Since Rio, concern for the environment has ( justly ) continued to turn. However, the inclination toward concern for homo instead than environmental rights within the sustainable docket ( i.e. , a turning concern for the intra- ( as opposed to inter- ) generational equality ) has continued as it is acknowledge that we can non disregard the deprived today in seeking to forestall want in the hereafter ( Anand and Sen, 2000: 2030 ) . Many of the alternate definitions of SD have tried, with changing grades, of success, to decide the apparently contradictory impression inherent to SD development often involved capitalist or industrial development, and therefore the mention to sustainability is surely so undermined by the paradox of what this type of ‘development ‘ agencies for the environment ( Redclift, 1987 ) .

Conventional wisdom holds that Southern states are excessively preoccupied with economic endurance to worry about environmental quality ( Dunlap: 1994: 115 ) , something that was, to some extent, reflected in the Rio conference. Governments of developing states wanted to discourse the thought of ‘development ‘ , and the authoritiess of richer states that of ‘sustainability ‘ ( to the disregard of development ) ( Dunlap: 1994: 115 ) . Though economic development need non be unambiguously associated with environmental debasement it must besides be recognised that states ( or possibly more significantly, people within states ) will justly set more focal point on prolonging people ‘s wellbeing than the environment ‘s. In short, though some authorities policies in the underdeveloped universe may be viewed as inconclusive because they fall short of protecting natural resources, such apparently ‘irrational ‘ policies may reflect economic necessity in states that have small pick but to perpetuate patterns that contribute to environmental debasement in the absence of alternate beginnings of income ( Bryant and Bailey, 1997: 59 ) .

This position of environmental protection versus human rights was pertinent at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development ( or Rio + 10 ) , held in Johannesburg in 1992. In the runup to the acme African leaders made it clear that they expected to speak about occupations, non birds ( The Economist, 2002b ) . The Economist stated that without ‘concrete ‘ or ‘pragmatic ‘ action to contend poorness, all right words on verdure, planetary heating or fish stocks will come to naught ( The Economist, 2002b ) . In other words, prolonging want can non be our end ( Anand and Sen, 2000: 2030 ) , and whilst certainly the conditions for most of the universe ‘s hapless can be sustained, the issue is that they should non be ( Marcuse, 1998: 106 ) . SD is frequently received with ill will in LDCs where it is seen as an effort to dispute the development universe ‘s elemental right to develop: after all, crunching poorness, it turns out, is pretty sustainable ( The Economist, 2002b ) .

The accomplishment of environmental protection and regard for human rights can merely be reached if we do non yield to the impression that they are reciprocally sole. Human life, and human rights, can non be without a comparatively healthy environment, and the environment can non be protected without the credence and protection of basic human rights. Though facets of each may at times need to be sacrificed for advancement in the other, it remains critical to voyage the obstructions and travel towards a sustainable universe.

Anand, S. and Sen, A. ( 2000 ) ‘Human Development and Economic Sustainability ‘ , World Development, 28 ( 12 ) , 2029-2049.
Barrow, C. J. ( 1995 ) ‘Sustainable Development: Concept, Value and Practice ‘ , Third World Planning Review, 17 ( 4 ) , 369-386.
Bryant, R. L. and Bailey, S. ( 1997 ) Third World Political Ecology, London: Routledge.
Dunlap, R. ( 1994 ) ‘International Attitudes Towards Environment and Development ‘ , in Helge Ole Bergensen and Georg Parmann ( explosive detection systems. ) , Green Globe Yearbook of International Co-operation on Environment and Development, Oxford: Oxford University Press ) , 115-126.
Marcuse, P. ( 1998 ) ‘Sustainability is non adequate ‘ , Environment and Urbanization, 10 ( 2 ) , 103-111.
Redclift, M. ( 1987 ) Sustainability: life opportunities and support, London: Routledge.
Shelton, D. ( 2002 ) Human Rights and Environment Issues in Multilateral Treaties Adopted between 1991 and 2001, background paper for the Joint UNEP-OHCHR Expert Seminar on Human Rights and the Environment, Geneva, 14-16 January 2002.
The Economist ( 2002 ) The Johannesburg Summit: Prolonging the hapless ‘s development, 29 August 2002.
The Economist ( 2002b ) Africa expects to speak about occupations, non birds, 22 August 2002.
WCED ( 1987 ) Our Common Future, The Brundtland Report, Oxford: Oxford University Press.