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UNEP applauds environment decision by Commission on Human Rights

Nairobi/Geneva, 25 April 2003 - The United Nations Environment Programme welcomes today's decision by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights emphasizing the strong link between human rights and a healthy environment.

"People can only achieve their full human potential when their natural environment is robust and respected," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.

"The existence of clean air, clean water, a stable climate, thriving wildlife and well-managed natural resources determines the extent to which people can enjoy their basic rights to life, health, food, housing, livelihood and culture," he said.

Today's decision on "Human Rights and the Environment as Part of Sustainable Development" states that the "protection of the environment and sustainable development can also contribute to human well-being and potentially to the enjoyment of human rights".

"Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are essential for achieving sustainable development … Environmental damage can have potentially negative effects on the enjoyment of some human rights," it says.

The decision further "stresses the importance for States, when developing their environmental policies, to take into account how environmental degradation may affect disadvantaged members of society."

The Commission's decision provides a good basis for further cooperation between UNEP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on promoting the linkages between human rights and the environment, including efforts to strengthen the role of the judiciary in supporting the goals of sustainable development.

The 1972 Stockholm Declaration, which also created UNEP, marked the international community's first official recognition of the fundamental link between human rights and environmental protection. It states that "Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment, for present and future generations."

Note to journalists: For further information on environment and human rights, please see www.unhchr.ch/environment or www.unep.ch/glo. For more information, please contact: Eric Falt at +254-2-62-3292, +254-733-682656 (cell) or eric.falt@unep.org; Nick Nuttall at +254-2-62-3084, +254-733-632755 (cell) or nick.nuttall@unep.org; or Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242/8196/8244, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or michael.williams@unep.ch.

UNEP Information Note 2003/05