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February 26, 2018

Environment and Human Rights

Dr. Khine Khine Win

There is no internationally agreed single definition of environment. Environment is living things and what is around them. Living things do not simply exist in their environment. They constantly interact with it. In the environment there are interactions between plants, animals, soil, water, temperature, light, and other living and non-living things. The environment affects the growth and development of the person. It affects the person’s behavior, person’s body, mind and heart.
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings regardless of nationality, place of residence, sex, religion, language or any other status. All human being rely on environment to get resources, such as water, shelter, food and clothing.
The provisions of the UN Stockholm Declaration of 1972 focus on the concerns and efforts to protect the environment on the fact that is essential for human well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights. This Stockholm Declaration is the first effort of the international community to introduce in the political agenda the environmental dimension as a condition for economic and social progress.
Although environment and human rights are distinct and separate fields, protection of environment and human rights are closely related to the point that they are actually independent. For instance pollution is not directly a human rights issue but it becomes a human right issue when people well-being is affected by pollution, negative effects on health and livelihood such as the right to heath and the right to life. And also climate change threat to the right to food, the right to water and the right to development. It shows that environmental degradation such as pollution, depletion of ozone layer and climate change .etc affects directly the enjoyment of basic human rights. Moreover, the relation between human rights and the environment has been recognized in two ways, through the proclamation of right to healthy environment, safe and sustainable and by deepening the link between human rights and environment, such as right to life and right to health. In this regard, adequate protection of environment depends on the exercises of human rights, such as right to access information which is vital for the transparent environmental policies.
Now a day climate change is affecting every country on every continent. Climate change is a major threat to agriculture and as a consequence food security for people is at risk. And also infrastructure and transportation are at risk too. In order to solve this issue, addressing climate change is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the universally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.
UN special Rapporteur John Knox emphasizes in his report is that  human rights perspective on environmental protection promotes equality, freedom and human dignity and improves the effectiveness of policy making and he elaborates that more sustainable and robust policy outcomes can be generated when those individuals most affected by development and environmental policies participate in decision-making processes. In the future, efforts to mainstream environmental and human rights norms in implementing and monitoring the SDGs will be critical, he stated in his report.
The enjoyment of human beings depends on environmental protection and in turn environmental protection depends on the action of human beings. While attempting to become fully developed country, preserving the environment issue should be considered as the existence of all human being does not rely on infrastructure it’s on green and clean environment.
Despite most countries having enacted laws aimed at protecting the environment, many of which have enshrined this right in their constitutions, the right to a healthy environment is not recognized explicitly.  Protecting the environment is a government obligation and that of citizens too. Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar states that “ The Union shall protect and conserve natural environment “ and also article 390 (b) states that every citizens has the duty to assist the Union in carry out to environmental conservation.
In order to deal with human rights and environmental protection, legitimacy policies, accountability of every stakeholder levels, good governance in multi- stake holders the private sector for human rights and environment organization are needed to promote. Rules, norms and regulations must be in place. At local level, the provincial authority and village leaders should formulate rules and agreement concerning the preservation and conservation of environment. And also many existing institutions at both national and global have to foster to address the environment protection, while others are involved in human rights. We should strive to balance between environmental protection and human rights protection and safeguard life in order to achieve the sustainability.
It should be noted that, getting community involvement in environmental protection is very crucial. Better coordination between public, private, civil society and NGOs, (all stakeholders) plays an essential role to ensure a global green economy and green world. Lack of coordination between among different stakeholders fails to become a healthy environment. Without the right to healthy environment, it is impossible to realize the right to food, water, health etc now and in the future.
To conclude, the economic and social development depends on the protection of the environment and reduction of the human impact. Addressing the global environmental problems that threaten our lives requires national efforts as well as international collaboration on both bilateral and multilateral level and the active participation of all members of the international community. If there is an issue, it is the political will and individual will that matters.


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