ISWA President, Antonis Mavropoulos calls for the UN to recognise that human rights and the environment are closely linked and in fact interdependent…
Mr John Knox, the first UN independent expert on human rights and the environment appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2012, recently proposed that the UN should officially recognise that the right to a healthy and clean environment is a human right. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to discuss this with him in an interview, raising the connection between sound waste management and a healthy environment.
At ISWA, we have been stressing the importance of the right to a healthy environment ever since, and even before, the launch of our 2014 report, ‘Wasted Health, The Tragic Case of Dumpsites’. The reaction has often been muted, with many failing to see this as a major issue. They perceive it as a legal issue, as a legal detail to be managed. However, the new report by John Knox has amplified the dialogue by directly linking human rights and the environment.
Whilst many universally understand that rights rightly exist, as John Knox told me in our discussion, a healthy environment is “just as important as many of these other aspects of human well-being. It's as important to our ability to live lives in dignity, quality and freedom, but it wasn't included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and in many subsequent human rights treaties.”
However, things have changed since 1948; populations are growing, people are moving around the planet more and there is an exponential upsurge in the amount we produce and consume. With these changes, it is vital that we consider the capacity to offer a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for the people of Earth. “It's fundamental to human dignity, equality, and freedom, and it's fundamental to our ability to enjoy all of our other rights,” acknowledged John Knox.
With this in mind, it is vital that the international community accept ISWA’s position that sound waste management is a basic component of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. It is also vital, if we are to instigate real change, that we address the barriers that exist in terms of policy and governance.
The first step, however, will be awareness raising and bringing ISWA’s mission statement into the mainstream. ISWA’s declared mission is to “promote and develop sustainable and professional waste management worldwide” and that “all people on earth should have the right to enjoy an environment with clean air, water, seas and soils”.
Over the coming years, ISWA will address this and passionately advocate the conclusions of John Knox’s report. ISWA’s core projects and research will all be shaped by the matter of a clean environment as a human right, whether it be on closing dumpsites, marine litter, circular economy or the fourth industrial revolution. In the meantime, help spread the word that sound waste management is a basic component of a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
You can read the full interview HERE
ISWA President, Antonis Mavropoulos
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