Our campaign to make a healthy natural environment a human right


Sign the petition here : www.birdlife.org/healthyplanet

Today in an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, BirdLife marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by calling on the United Nations to take a bold and unprecedented step: to declare that a healthy natural environment is a basic human right.

The letter, published in full below, calls on the UN, as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, to add an “article 31” to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – enshrining a universal right to a healthy natural environment, guaranteed by public policies, governed by sustainability and by indigenous scientific and traditional knowledge.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights arose from the ashes of World War II and for the first time defined basic human rights that must be protected globally. Its 30 articles cover topics such as torture, slavery and education, but above all, nothing about the preservation of the environment – on which man and all life depends. If successful, this amendment would be the first addition since the milestone document was proclaimed in 1948.

“COVID-19 is the biggest global crisis since World War II. But while the pandemic is devastating, it also gives world leaders a chance, if not an obligation, to transform society – to further protect our well-being and future generations, ”said Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International. “The health of our planet is our health. We humans depend on nature for our survival and sanity, but our actions have upset the natural balance of the Earth.

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We are grappling with the dual climate and biodiversity crisis, which has put over a million species in danger of extinction and is also having a negative impact on human health. The current pandemic has its roots in habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. And as with the climate and biodiversity crises, COVID-19 once again underscores the need and opportunity for humanity to be bold, decisive, and to work together – quickly.

“Efforts have been made to include a right to a healthy environment in the past,” says Melanie Heath, director of science and policy, BirdLife International. “Today, we hope that the severity of the pandemic is a strong enough wake-up call for the United Nations and the citizens of the world to come together to restore nature and protect us from similar crises in the future.”

“Article 31 would be a gift to the world and to future generations. And what better time to launch a manifesto for this than Earth Day, ”says Asunción Ruiz, CEO, SEO / BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain). “Instead of learning from the corona crisis, some leaders are cynically using it as an excuse to roll back environmental protection. The consecration of a healthy natural environment as a sacred human right will be an achievement that will benefit humanity for centuries to come, and it is the only way to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. .

The letter urges that the article 31 right to a healthy natural environment be placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly’s Biodiversity Summit in September 2020, with the ultimate goal of its approval in December. 2023, to mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration.

This letter is part of a larger effort to improve climate and natural policy at the end of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, and is an open appeal to the rest of civil society on the planet for support; the inclusion of the right to a healthy natural environment is a task that we should all support if we are to protect our well-being, our survival and to save our planet.

For more information and to sign our public petition in support of Article 31, visit: www.birdlife.org/healthyplanet

The whole letter:

To His Excellency

Mr. António Guterres

Secretary General of the United Nations


Today the 50e anniversary of Earth Day, as if the relentless rotation of the Earth has slowed down and stopped, the coronavirus has created an unprecedented challenge. It connects us all in our fragility and the intimate link we have with our planet and with nature.

Whether it’s housebound or struggling to be away from each other, or heroically treating the sick and dying, or continuing to provide essential public services, all at our peril – we all wonder how it is. we got there?

That is why, at this historic moment in human history, we need your leadership at the head of our United Nations. The health of our planet, our ecosystems, our economies, and even of ourselves, now implore the General Assembly to recognize our universal right to live in a healthy natural environment – guaranteed by public policies and governed by sustainability and the best indigenous scientific and traditional knowledge. awareness.

We invite you – we implore you – to ask for an addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations: to devote a new article 31, that which recognizes the right to a healthy environment. From now on, by placing it on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September as part of the Biodiversity Summit, this could be achieved by December 2023, to mark the 75e anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration.

We know we will eventually emerge, in heartbreak and pain, and economically devastated, from the coronavirus. Once we reach the brink of the galloping twin crises of climate and biodiversity, however, we will not escape them. We can already see how our carelessness for the planet violates other established universal human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security.

The science is clear now. In this critical “Decade of Action”, we must take the decisive action necessary to save the planet’s ecosystems from collapse. The effects of global warming and biodiversity loss on people’s health and their economies, if left unaddressed, will be irreparable.

The initial declaration of human rights was forged from the ashes of the conflagration of World War II. Now we too must take up the challenge of finding a better way to conduct ourselves in our spinning house. Inspirational and determined Greta Thunberg, and the global youth movement she pioneered, put the faces of the future viscerally on what it means to not ensure the health of the planet. Indeed, we risk making fun of and undermining the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

We know that adding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a profound act. Sacred even. But we are convinced that at this time of crisis, your courage and your leadership are needed to face the collapse of ecosystems and the irreversible overheating of the planet which is looming with such a threat. Our beautiful Earth is also sacred, and there has perhaps never been a more important time to enshrine a human right that would require all of us to respect it, for the good of all.

At BirdLife International, a family of scientists, environmentalists and local people from over 100 countries, founded in 1922 shortly after the League of Nations, we believe we share this historic responsibility. As a United Nations-recognized civil society observer, we therefore humbly urge you to raise this issue at the next United Nations General Assembly in September.

We appreciate your urgent attention to this issue and stand ready to move forward and mobilize the citizens of the planet, on all continents, seas and oceans, to support such a vital call and support your leadership.


Patricia zurita

Managing Director of BirdLife International, on behalf of the BirdLife International Partnership


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