Earth

Environment is human right, said and resolved a recent UN meet. It’s a reiteration of an already discussed issue – essential to all of the human society. It’s a much important issue to the peoples in countries facing forces ravaging environment; and, ravaging of environment is an act against people as the act denies people’s right to life and existence.

Reiterating and implementing the environment right empowers people, creates/widens people’s space for a democratic life, as environment itself is an area for democracy, for people’s participation. There’s no scope for individualism, neither for person nor for capital – irrespective of capital’s power – in the area of environment. The reasons:

[1] No individual or a coterie of individuals create/can create livable environment at no level. Having a livable environment is collective contribution.

[2] No capital or an alliance of capitals create/can create livable environment with its own power. Without labor, capital is lame, useless – incapable of moving a single grain of sand a millimeter.

According to a release by the UN1, the Human Rights Council recognized [on October 8, 2021], for the first time, that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. In resolution 48/13, the Council called on States to implement this newly recognized right. The text, proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, was passed with 43 votes in favor and 4 abstentions – from Russia, India, China and Japan. In a second resolution (48/14), the Council also increased its focus on the human rights impacts of climate change by establishing a Special Rapporteur dedicated specifically to that issue. In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on Member States to take bold actions to give prompt and real effect to the right to a healthy environment. Ms. Bachelet said that, having long called for such a step, she was “gratified” that the decision “clearly recognises environmental degradation and climate change as interconnected human rights crises.” “Bold action is now required to ensure this resolution on the right to a healthy environment serves as a springboard to push for transformative economic, social and environmental policies that will protect people and nature,” she added. At the beginning of the current session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner described the triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and nature loss as the single greatest human rights challenge of our era. The new resolution acknowledges the damage inflicted by climate change and environmental destruction on millions of people across the world. It also underlines that the most vulnerable segments of the population are more acutely impacted. The issue will now go to the UN General Assembly in New York, for further consideration. The passage of the resolution is outcome of a decades-long effort. The High Commissioner also noted that an unprecedented number of environmental human rights defenders were reported killed last year, urging Member States to take firm measures to protect and empower them. “We must build on this momentum to move beyond the false separation of environmental action and protection of human rights. It is all too clear that neither goal can be achieved without the other”, she said. Costa Rica’s ambassador Catalina Devandas Aguilar said the decision will “send a powerful message to communities […] struggling with climate hardship that they are not alone”.

A few days prior to passing of the resolution, a Reuters dispatch from Geneva said2: The UK and US were among a few countries withholding support for the proposal that would recognize access to a safe and healthy environment as a human right.

The Reuters report didn’t fail to mention: “Washington has historically been hesitant to add new rights and tends to avoid legally binding treaties that could be difficult to ratify.”

According to the Reuters report, David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the UN proposal, first conceived of in the 1990s, was long overdue. “The evidence is overwhelming that these environmental challenges are directly affecting people’s enjoyment of fundamental human rights. There are definitely countries that have a deep-rooted interest in maintaining the status quo and this is a challenge to them”, he said. However he didn’t name the countries.

As a background/reference, the report mentioned: Past UN resolutions including a 2010-resolution on the right to water and sanitation prompted countries like Tunisia to pass legislation enshrining it in domestic law. Globally, the number of climate-related litigation cases has soared in the past few years and more are invoking human rights to support their arguments3. Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel to the Urgenda Foundation which won a landmark climate case4 against the Dutch government in 2019, said the resolution could help courts interpret the right in future cases.

The resolution, no doubt, will have far-reaching implication in law/legal aspects, and in areas related to property, rights – civil, fundamental, basic, political, and to people’s struggle – connected to food, health, environment and ecology, governance, participation, transparency, institution and democracy. Broadly, the resolution will/can be connected to democratic struggle, and to the struggle of the working classes.

In all exploitative societies/economies, the working classes are the first, worst and widest victims of environment-injustice, -expropriation and -appropriation as these classes are the weakest part of society in terms of (a) access to information, education, organization, institution, facilities, rights and justice, (b) politics and participation in political process, (c) type/pattern/level of consumption and living condition. In most cases, and in lands after lands, the working class life is to the level of sub-human standard. In cases, the standard of life members of these classes live in leads anybody to question – how do they survive? It’s shredded, it’s tiny pieces of motions, it’s mechanical movements of some habits void of life. Reports by ILO and other UN organizations, by many other international organizations and media; and reports on poverty, inequality, slum, landless, children, women, food, water, health, disease, consumption, energy use, debt, living and working/work place condition, industrial and occupational accident/death/injury, chemical exposure, waste dumping/discharge of effluent, land/water body grabbing, defacing of hills and mountains, deforestation, mining, urban environment, amusement, rights, coercion, muzzling of voice, demobilization/deactivation of organization tell this fact.5 Location of housing of the working classes6, and slipping out of land, encroachment/expropriation in real terms, from hands of the small landholders to the rich are two of the stark indicators of the condition of environmental rights the poor “enjoy”. This reality shows the way, the extent the working classes are deprived of rights including environmental rights. It’s almost a void.

With expropriation and appropriation of environment and ecology by the powerful, by capitals, condition of the working classes turns precarious. With obstacles to organizing, with deactivating/breaking down of the working class’ organizations or usurping leadership of these organizations by capital the situation takes graver turn. With muzzling down of voices of the working classes the graver situation worsens further. Finding out rights, in this reality, is like searching a gold coin in a deep forest.

Recent reports on the global environment are enough to tell the condition of people, especially the working classes, as everywhere and all the time it’s the dominating interests/ruling classes that transfer the burden/brunt on the weak – the dominated people, the working classes. The dominating interests/ruling classes have the economic and political power to transfer this. The power includes appropriate mechanism and arrangements. Wages, working and living conditions, market mechanisms, actually control over markets, and fiscal/financial measures imposed with state machine, coercion indeed, include these mechanisms and arrangements. Moreover, the dominating interests/ruling classes have the ability/capacity to fly away from distress – be it a distress zone or a distress situation. They can escape saline water intruded area, expansion of desertification, water logged area, an area having contaminated ground water; they live far away from waste dumping site; they run away to area far away from a coming super-cyclone; their residential area’s sky isn’t overcast with black fumes from factory chimneys; they can afford ecologically produced food; the cotton cloth used for their clothes are ecologically produced – cotton not laced with harmful pesticides, etc.; the dairy products they consume are ecologically produced; the health care system they avail is of the state-of-the-art; and the arrangements they avail for recreation is super-fine. Therefore, there remains only the poor, the people, the working classes that face all the realities of environmental degradation. This environmental divide is great, is class-wise. None can disregard this great environmental class divide. The dominating classes have the environmental-economic power, the environmental-political power. They wield these against people, against the working classes.

With imperialist wars, interventions, etc. the environmental rights are lost/harmed most; and it’s people that get destroyed by those wars, etc. that bear the severest blow as all these rights are denied by imperialism.

But the environmental right remains alive, as rights of people can never be wiped out, because people can never be wiped out from the face of the earth. These rights can’t be killed and buried even if its owners – people that include the working classes – are denied and deprived of these; and the denial can’t go for permanently.

Recent international reports on environment/climate are explicit about the threat humanity faces now7.

Environmental rights

“Environmental rights means any proclamation of a human right to environmental conditions of a specified quality.

“Human rights and the environment are intertwined; human rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment; and sustainable environmental governance cannot exist without the establishment of and respect for human rights. This relationship is increasingly recognized, as the right to a healthy environment is enshrined in over 100 constitutions.”8

“There are several established human rights related to the environment. Environmental rights are composed of substantive rights (fundamental rights) and procedural rights (tools used to achieve substantial rights).

“Substantive are those in which the environment has a direct effect on the existence or the enjoyment of the right itself. Substantive rights comprise of: civil and political rights, such as the rights to life, freedom of association and freedom from discrimination; economic and social rights such as rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living; cultural rights such as rights to access religious sites; and collective rights affected by environmental degradation, such as the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Procedural rights prescribe formal steps to be taken in enforcing legal rights. Procedural rights include 3 fundamental access rightsaccess to informationpublic participation, and access to justice.”9

Accessing these rights by people including the working classes depend on their state of awareness and organization/mobilization. It’s impossible to enjoy these rights unless people have their organization/mobilization/initiative/leadership. In areas, these or part of these rights can be declared/enshrined in official or state documents, or partly executed by dominating capital. This declaration/enshrinement or execution by dominating capital depends on compulsions faced by capitals dominating environment; and the compulsions come either from drive for regeneration of capital or accommodating part of social forces opposed to capital’s dominance over environment or diffusing discontent/restiveness of electorates/tax payers over horrible state/infringement of environment as capital, if mature, can’t dare to keep discontent unattended.

Only enactment of law, but void of its execution essentially carries no value. The Environmental Rule of Law, First Global Report is the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law. The 2019 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found “weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.”10The UN Environment report found that despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution, [etc.].”11

The report said:

If human society is to stay within the bounds of critical ecological thresholds, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet. Environmental rule of law offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice […]

As of 2017, according to the report, 176 countries had environmental framework laws; 150 countries enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in respective constitutions; and 164 countries created cabinet-level bodies for environmental protection. These and other environmental laws, rights, and institutions have helped slow, in cases reverse environmental degradation, and achieve the public health, economic, social, and human rights that benefit environmental protection.

It mentioned the existing reality:

Too often, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations falls far short of what is required to address environmental challenges. Laws sometimes lack clear standards or necessary mandates. Others are not tailored to national and local contexts and so fail to address the conditions on the ground. Implementing ministries are often underfunded and politically weak in comparison to ministries responsible for economic or natural resource development. [….] [A] backlash has also occurred as environmental defenders are killed, [etc.]. These shortfalls are by no means limited to developing nations [;] […] developed nations have found their performance […] lacking in certain respects. […] [E]nvironmental rule of law is a challenge for all countries.

The report highlighted steps that states can take to support environmental rule of law: Evaluate mandates and structure of environmental institutions to identify regulatory overlap or underlap; build the capacity of the public to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully with government and project proponents; prioritize protection of environmental defenders and whistleblowers; creation of environmental courts and tribunals, use administrative enforcement processes to handle minor offenses. The benefits of environmental rule of law extend far beyond the environmental sector: Protection of the environment, public health, human and constitutional rights; strengthening of rule of law more broadly; supporting sustainable development; contributing to peace and security. Therefore, it is a growing priority for all countries.

The rights people should be entitled to include:

[1] The right to environmental information.

[2] The right to participate in environmental decision-making.

[3] The right to effective remedy12.

Class Power

These rights, as briefly presented in the note 12, if implemented/ensured/executed, can broadly ensure people’s interests related to environment and life. But, the extent of implementation of these rights in countries is known to all sufferers in most countries. The sufferers are not only the small and marginal farmers, urban poor and proletariat. The middle class, the petty bourgeois class, also suffer due to environment-exploitation by capital.

One of the major hindrances to implementation of the rights mentioned is class power of the dominating interests that constantly acts with environment in a hostile way. To be specific, it’s political power of the dominating interests that harms/hurts/devours environment. It’s class power equation; and class power manifests in economic, political, social ideological power. People, especially the working people, is in weaker position in this power equation if people remain unaware and unorganized.

Class power, a relationship between two opposite and hostile classes, is manifested at local level through local operatives – political, economic and ideological operatives, local administration and local government; and at national level, it’s manifested in legislative, executive and judiciary parts of state machine, in complex arrangements/deals the machine plays with/makes. Force, influence, authority, scope and range of class power depends on dominating position of a class(es).

The absence/non-implementation of rights is directly related to people’s loss of wages/income, degradation of livelihood. The act of devouring of environment is an act of devouring/swallowing of people’s livelihood – an act of hostility to people. Thus, the capital that harms/hurts environment is in direct conflict/contradiction with people.

But, most of the discussions on environment, and on rights related to environment don’t mention this fact of class/political power, equation of political power, contradiction, dominating capital’s hostility. Class connections are also vital in this regard. The connections are visible at times, and, at most of the time, invisible. It requires serious search, or research, to find out the invisible class connections.

The environment-exploitation that the exploiting classes carry on in unhindered way is a show of the exploiters’ class power. This exploitation has its class character – capitalist/imperialist. Bureaucracy plays a very powerful role in favor of the environment-exploitation. “[…] bureaucracy”, writes Lenin, “was the first political instrument of the bourgeoisie against the feudal-lords, and against the representatives of the ‘old-nobility’ system in general, and marked the first appearance in the arena of political rule of people who were not high-born landowners, but commoners, ‘middle class’ […]”13 This instrument faithfully carries on its duties with the power of law formulated to secure exploitative interest and system; and, at times, the instrument turns “blind” when required to allow the plundering capital to carry on environment exploitation. A pure play of class power it’s. The play robs people, unorganized and unaware, of their human rights with environment; and, consequently, people’s suffering increases.

To ensure human rights with environment, there’s the essential task of

[1] reaching the masses of people with relevant information and publicity work;

[2] exposing acts of environment exploitation; and,

[3] organizing the masses of people with activities of regenerating demolished environment and widening space for people’s participation.

Widening space for participation by people is itself an act of struggle and resistance, an act that challenges the capital exploiting environment for profit of an extremely minority class – the exploiting class. The entire task is political; and the task has to encounter political problems, actors and instruments. Many environmental problems can’t be addressed locally, and by local authorities. Central, political authorities are to address those problems. These problems include issues of safe and health-friendly food and shelter/habitat; environment-friendly trade, fiscal, industrial, energy and mining policies. Policies and acts of imperialism including invasion/war, armaments/deployment of weapons go against environment, which makes it an imperative to oppose imperialism. Thus, the endeavor turns political struggle upholding interest of the masses of people; and majority of the people is the working people.

There’s no logic to assume that the task is to be organized and led by the so-called NGOs – non-governmental organizations. Organizing and carrying out this task is beyond capacity of NGOs. People’s organizations are to organize the task; people’s organizations are to gain space instead of depending on NGOs. There’s requirement of environment-political program.

 

Source/Note

  1. Access to a healthy environment, declared a human right by UN rights council”, https://www.ungeneva.org/es/news-media/news/2021/10/access-healthy-
    environment-declared-human-right-un-rights-council#:~:text=Access%20to%20a%20healthy%20environment%2
    C%20declared%20a%20human,healthy%20and%20sustainable%20
    environment%20is%20a%20human%20right
    , October 8, 2021.
  2. “Clean environment could become U.N. human right. Not so fast, say U.S., Britain”, October 5, 2021
  3. https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/germany-must-further-tighten-climate-change-law-top-court-rules-2021-04-29
  4. https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-netherlands-idAFL8N28U284
  5. Now-a-days, such reports are numerous; and methodologies followed for preparing many of these reports are broadly sound. Reports including reports by the UN organizations, the famous Citizens’ Reports on India’s Environment by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, and the People’s Reports on Bangladesh Environment 2001 and 2002-2003 (Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Government of Bangladesh, UNDP, Unnayan Shamannay and University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2001 and 2004) are among the reliable sources of information.
  6. Discussed in Bangladesh context in Farooque Chowdhury, “The poor in Bangladesh urban setting: Embodiment of an exploitative system”, in forthcoming annual 2021 issue of Bangla Journal, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.
  7. The reports include Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, CMCC), G20 Climate Risk Atlas, Impacts, Policy Economics, https://files.cmcc.it/g20climaterisks/G20_all.pdf; Kilian Kuhla, Sven Norman Willner, Christian Otto, Tobias Geiger and Anders Levermann, “Ripple Resonance Amplifies Economic Welfare Loss from Weather Extremes”, Environmental Research LettersVolume 16Number 11, October 27, 2021, IOP Publishing Ltd., DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac2932iop.org/article/10. … 088/1748-9326/ac2932; World Meteorological Organization (WMO), State of the Climate in Africa, 2021, Geneva, Switzerland, https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10854; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Emissions Gap Report 2021: The Heat is On – A World of Climate Promises Not Yet Delivered, Nairobi, Kenya, October 26, 2021, file:///C:/Users/Digital/Downloads/EGR21%20(1).pdf; WMO, WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (GHG Bulletin): The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2020, no.17, October 25, 2021, https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=21975#.YYIeeflBzIU; Climate Transparency, Climate Transparency Report 2021, October 14, 2021, https://www.climate-transparency.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/CT2021-Highlights-Report.pdf; First Street Foundation, “The 3rd National Risk Assessment: Infrastructure on the Brink”, New York, US, https://assets.firststreet.org/uploads/2021/09/The-3rd-National-Risk-Assessment-Infrastructure-on-the-Brink.pdf; Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) and International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020, https://gcrmn.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Chapter-2.-Status-of-Coral-Reefs-of-the-World.pdf; Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Ecological Threat Report 2021, Understanding Ecological Threats, Resilience and Peace, October 2021, Sydney, Australia, https://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/ETR-2021-web.pdf; WMO, 2021 State of Climate Services, Water, https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10826; Clement, Viviane, Kanta Kumari Rigaud, Alex de Sherbinin, Bryan Jones, Susana Adamo, Jacob Schewe, Nian Sadiq, and Elham Shabahat, 2021 Groundswell Part 2: Acting on Internal Climate Migration, World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2021, file:///C:/Users/Digital/Downloads/Groundswell%20Part%20II.pdf; Blunden, J. and T. Boyer, (Eds.), 2020: “State of the Climate in 2020”. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 102 (8), Si–S475, doi:10.1175/2021BAMSStateoftheClimate.1, Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 102, no. 8, August, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1175/2021BAMSStateoftheClimate.1, https://ametsoc.net/sotc2020/State_of_the_Climate_in_2020_LowRes96.pdf; UNICEF, The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index, 2021, New York, US, https://www.unicef.org/media/105531/file/UNICEF_climate%20crisis_child_rights_crisis-summary.pdf; Fischer, E.M., Sippel, S. & Knutti, R., “Increasing probability of record-shattering climate extremes”, Nature Climate Change, 11, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01092-9; William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw, Claudio Moura, and 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries, “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, BioScience, January 2020, vol. 70, no. 1, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337679925_World_Scientists%27_Warning_of_a_Climate_Emergency.
  8. “The right to a healthy environment has gained constitutional recognition and protection in more than 100 States; the strongest form of legal protection available. About two thirds of the constitutional rights refer to a healthy environment; alternative formulations include rights to a clean, safe, favorable, wholesome or ecologically balanced environment.” (UNEP, Environmental rights and governance)

UNEP

    https://www.unep.org/explore-topics/environmental-rights-and-governance/what-we-do/advancing-environmental-rights/what-0?_ga=2.204144404.509178394.1634359360-669261230.1634359360

  1. Principle 10 adopted in 1992 as a part of the Rio Declaration, states: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens,” with “appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.” It sets out three fundamental rights: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice, as key pillars of sound environmental governance. The “access rights” have emerged to be very important in promoting transparent, inclusive and accountable environmental governance. Access to information empowers citizens and incentivizes them to participate in decision and policy-making processes in an informed manner. Public participation is increasingly being a vital part of addressing environmental problems and achieving sustainable development […] Access to justice provides the foundation of the “access rights”, as it facilitates the public’s ability to enforce their right to participate, to be informed, and to hold regulators and polluters accountable for environmental harm. (Benson Ochieng, Implementing Principle 10 and the Bali Guidelines in Africa, UNEP, February 2015, emphasis in the original, https://www.unep.org/civil-society-engagement/partnerships/principle-10?_ga=2.35902628.509178394.1634359360-669261230.1634359360
  2. https://www.unep.org/resources/assessment/environmental-rule-law-first-global-report?_ga=2.216858514.509178394.1634359360-669261230.1634359360
  3. ibid.
  4. Universal Rights Group (URG), EHRD Resource Paper: What are my rights?, “The right to environmental information”, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/80f01c_751ca12a36424f328aed4f37e8e76f74.pdf; URG, ibid., “The right to participate in environmental decision-making”, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/80f01c_36111bfa393a434294a67c86df518279.pdf; URG, ibid., “The right to effective remedy”, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/80f01c_f06d4b224c1240ac86503d8693472a3c.pdf.

These resource papers, as reference, cite international and national laws/regulations/legal procedures/ legal and environmental instruments/policies including Chile’s environmental framework law, Czech Republic’s Right to Environmental Information Act and Norway’s the Environmental Information Act.

These also cite treaties/agreements/covenant/conventions on access to information, public participation in decision-making, access to justice in environmental matters, prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade, persistent organic pollutants, climate change, biological diversity, combating desertification, civil liability for oil pollution damage, the Law of the Sea, civil and political rights.

The papers refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, statements by UN Special Rapporteurs on hazardous substances and toxic wastes, on human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, on the situation of human rights defenders, on the rights of indigenous peoples, on human rights and the environment, on housing and education, etc.

These also refer to the Future We Want, the outcome document of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, Principles 10 and 17 of the Rio Declaration, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and observations/statements, etc. of the European Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

These declarations, agreements, conventions, laws, etc. say:

States

  • need to conduct impact assessments “in line with human rights standards” when planning projects that may have an impact on water quality;
  • “should provide access to environmental information and provide for the assessment of environmental impacts that may interfere with the enjoyment of human rights”;
  • to consult stakeholders in the course of environmental impact assessments;
  • to provide for “adequate compensation and/or alternative accommodation and land for cultivation” to indigenous communities and local farmers whose land is flooded by large infrastructure projects, and “just compensation [to] and resettlement” of indigenous peoples displaced by forestation”;
  • to provide access to judicial recourse for claims alleging the violation of their rights as a result of environmental harm;
  • must implement mechanisms that allow defenders to communicate their grievances, claim responsibilities, and obtain effective redress for violations, without fear of intimidation;
  • recognize that “opportunities for people to influence their lives and future, participate in decision-making and voice their concerns are fundamental for sustainable development”;
  • have heightened duties to indigenous peoples. Among other duties, states are obliged to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that concern them;
  • have a duty to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making to safeguard a wide spectrum of rights from environmental harm.

And,

  • Where a state determines complex issues of environmental and economic policy, the decision-making process must firstly involve appropriate investigations and studies to allow public to predict and evaluate in advance the effects of those activities that might damage the environment and infringe individuals’ rights and to enable them to strike a fair balance between conflicting interests at stake. The importance of public access to the conclusions of such studies and to information would enable the public to assess the danger to which they are exposed is beyond question.
  • Obligations for states to provide for remedies in specific areas.

And,

  • Right “to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out.”

And, government

  • to provide the information requested as soon as possible and at the latest within 30 days of the request, and not later than 60 days under special circumstances. Any decision to deny requested information is subject to administrative and judicial review;
  • must facilitate the right to participation in environmental decision-making.

And,

  • Administrative and judicial review of alleged violations of the access to environmental information provisions.
  • Duty on any private or public entity to maintain and make available information on their actions that may have an “appreciable effect” on the environment.
  • Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.
  • Provide environmental information to the public.
  • Before any action is taken that interferes with the right to water, the relevant authorities must provide an opportunity for “genuine consultation with those affected.
  • “[E]xtractive activities should not take place within the territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent,” subject only to narrowly defined exceptions.
  • Information relating to large-scale development projects should be publicly available and accessible.
  • Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens.

And, the right to information

  • is critical to the exercise of other rights;
  • and the right of participation in decision-making are “both rights in themselves and essential tools for the exercise of other rights, such as the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing and others”.

And, everyone has a right

  • to access environmental information in the possession of the government relating to the state of the environment; environmental pollution; administrative acts, or other actions relating to the environment; studies relied on for environmental decision-making; and threats from environmental harm to human health, security or cultural resources;
  • “to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

And,

  • Provision of relaxed requirements for standing for plaintiffs in environmental cases.

And, everyone has the human right

  • “to seek, receive, and impart environmental information”;
  • to participate in environmental decision-making. The rights to take part in the government and in the conduct of public affairs are recognized. The right of participation is also critical to the exercise of other rights.

And, individuals

  • must “be able to appeal to the courts against any decision, act or omission where they consider that their interests or their comments have not been given sufficient weight in the decision-making process”;
  • should be given full and equal access to information concerning water and the environment.

And,

  • Allow individuals to request access environmental information through multiple means including by writing, fax, telephone, or other technically feasible form.
  • Each individual shall have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.
  1. The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve’s Book, Collected Works, vol. 1, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.


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