The Birdlife Partnership calls on the United Nations to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the first time in over 70 years to add a new human right: the right to a healthy natural environment.

The Birdlife Partnership calls on the United Nations to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the first time in over 70 years to add a new human right: the right to a healthy natural environment.

From the ashes of the Second World War, one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history, rose one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Forged by experts from various cultures and backgrounds, and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, this sacred document maps out, in its 30 articles, the fundamental human rights that must be protected.

These rights protect us from slavery and torture, and empower us to enjoy freedom of movement and thought. They have stood the test of time, and after 70 years, remain as relevant as ever.

But one right is missing: Article 31 – our right to a healthy, natural environment, and this is a critical gap. In the 70 years since the UDHR was formed, our society has wreaked havoc on the natural world. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the earth in which we grow much of our food, our environment impacts our health in many ways.

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is thought to be linked to illegal wildlife trade and the destruction of natural habitats – human activities which dramatically increase the risk of new diseases emerging. The science is clear: human health and the environment are closely linked, and we can already see how our lack of care for the planet infringes other established universal human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security.

In our letter to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, BirdLife calls on the UN to:

  • Include the right to a healthy natural environment – potentially an Article 31 – on the Agenda of the UN General Assembly and the UN Summit on Biodiversity in September 2020
  • Include the right to a healthy natural environment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Achieve this by December 2023 to mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration by the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations must show leadership by recognising a healthy natural environment as a human right as part of their response to the coronavirus crisis. We know adding a new human right is a sacred act. Our planet is equally sacred. There has perhaps never been a more important moment to enshrine a human right that would oblige us to respect it, for the benefit of all.

We appreciate your interest in securing this essential right for humankind. We hope that you, as an individual, as another NGO, environmental or otherwise, a company or a governmental agency, are ready to join us and mobilize the planet’s citizens, across all continents, seas and oceans, to back such a vital call. We welcome the opportunity to share your institution’s support on this website.