Morocco and four other countries pass historic resolution

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a historic resolution supported by Morocco and four other countries, recognizing access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right.

Initiated by the Kingdom of Morocco, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Slovenia and Switzerland, this resolution received the support of 161 Member States while 8 abstained.

The adoption of this text, the result of inclusive and long-term negotiation work, establishes Morocco’s role as a catalyst for multilateral efforts in favor of universal human rights.

The resolution follows a similar text adopted last year by the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and enshrines universal recognition of this right, through its adoption by the General Assembly of the UN in New York.

It calls on Member States, international organizations and businesses to step up their efforts to ensure a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed this “historic” decision, hailing a landmark development that demonstrates that Member States can unite in the collective fight against the triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

“The resolution will contribute to reducing environmental injustices, closing protection gaps and empowering people, especially those in vulnerable situations, including human rights defenders in environment, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples,” he said in a statement released by his office of the spokesperson.

Guterres added that this decision will also help Member States to accelerate the implementation of their environmental and human rights obligations and commitments, noting that the international community has granted universal recognition to this right and “ has brought us closer to its realization for all”.

Passing the resolution “is just a start”, he said, urging nations to make this newly recognized right “a reality for everyone, everywhere”.

In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also hailed the Assembly’s historic decision and echoed the Secretary-General’s call for urgent action for its implementation.

“Today we live in a historic moment, but simply asserting our right to a healthy environment is not enough. The General Assembly resolution is very clear: Member States must implement their international commitments and intensify their efforts to achieve them. We will all suffer far worse effects from environmental crises if we don’t work together to collectively avoid them now,” she said.

The text, now co-sponsored by 117 countries, notes that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is linked to existing international law and affirms that its promotion requires the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

It also recognizes that the impact of climate change, unsustainable management and use of natural resources, pollution of air, land and water, mismanagement of chemicals and waste, and the resulting loss of biodiversity interferes with the enjoyment of this right – and that environmental damage has direct and indirect negative implications for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.

While thanking Morocco and the four other initiators of this resolution, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, stressed that this historic decision by the General Assembly will change the nature even international human rights law.

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