Human Right to a Healthy Environment Global Coalition Wins UN Human Rights Prize
PHILADELPHIA, NEW YORK, GENEVA, LONDON (July 27, 2023) — This month, the 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 was recognized as one of the recipients of the prestigious 2023 United Nations Human Rights Prize. The coalition is awarded 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.
Several Quaker organizations were among the signatories, including the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), Friends World Committee for Consultation, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW). QUNO Geneva in particular was part of a core group in Geneva that focused on intensive advocacy at the United Nations Human Rights Council to recognize the human right to a healthy environment. QUNO speaks for Quakers at the UN in the name of FWCC.
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.
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 arrived just a few days ahead of the July 28 first 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 American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions. We work with people and partners worldwide, of all faiths and backgrounds, to meet urgent community needs, challenge injustice, and build peace.