The ABA has asked the Biden Administration to support the UN Human Rights Council’s new resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment, citing recent ABA policy to advance environmental justice.
In a Nov. 8 letter to Hon. Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, ABA President Reginald M. Turner commended the administration’s efforts to advance environmental justice and requested that it support Resolution 48/13, passed Oct. 8 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Resolution 48/13 for the first time recognizes that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.
Turner cited ABA Resolution 513, passed at the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2021, which committed the ABA to advancing environmental principles that include advocating for legislation and policies to establish environmental justice laws and policies that reflect the right of every human being to dignity and a clean and healthy environment.
The Human Rights Council, a body within the United Nations responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing human rights violations, is made of 47 countries elected by the UN General Assembly.
The resolution on a healthy environment passed the Council overwhelmingly but without the support of the United States, which is not currently a Council member but can join debates as an observer. Citing sources, Reuters reported that some in Washington are wary of the resolution, expressing legal concerns about the resolution and whether recognizing new rights could interfere with traditional civil and political rights.
In his appeal to the Biden Administration, Turner pointed out that declarations of support for a resolution on the right to a healthy environment have been signed by 15 UN agencies, more than 1,300 nongovernmental organizations, more than 50 businesses and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.
The Biden administration’s support for a right to a healthy environment, Turner’s letter said, “would demonstrate commitment to international cooperation with other countries, including our European allies, low-lying island States, and other developing countries.” The UN General Assembly is expected to consider the resolution in the coming months.
Follow us @ABAGrassroots to track significant developments.