Regional Treaties and Legal Provisions

Not all regions have a regional human rights convention or charter, such as the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, which will be addressed below.

For the Asia and Pacific region it should be mentioned that there are several Ministerial declarations on rights, such as The (16 October 1990) Bangkok Declaration, which affirms rights of individuals, groups, and organizations to obtain, publish and distribute information on environmental issues in Asia and the Pacific.

In 2000, the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific declared to adopt the Regional Action Program for Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development, 2001-2005 . This Program dealt with several human rights related issues such as establishing rights to access to information and empower the people and declaring there being a lack of adequate legislation including water rights or entitlements, insufficient political and public awareness, lack of public and stakeholder participation in water resources planning and management.

Regarding the Arab region one could mention The Arab Declaration on Environment and Development and Future Perspectives of September 1991 , which speaks of the right of individuals and non-governmental organizations to acquire information about environmental issues relevant to them.

In addition to that, the Johannesburg 2002 Arab Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development declares (full text below ) "Achieving sustainable development...requires...the agreement on a new mechanism for governance taking into consideration the principle of international law and people's rights in reaching sustainable development within the Rio declaration...".

Regional Human Rights Treaties

Out of the three mentioned regional human rights treaties, two regional human rights treaties contain specific provisions on the right to a healthy and clean environment. The approach of each differs, with the African Charter linking the environment to development, while the American Convention Protocol speaks of a "healthy environment."

American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1988)
Article 11 of the Additional Protocol to this convention is entitled: "Right to a healthy environment" and proclaims (1.) Everyone shall have the right to live in a healthy environment and to have access to basic public services and (2.) The States parties shall promote the protection, preservation and improvement of the environment.

The Protocol provides for both a right to environment and a right to health. Article 10 states that (1.) Everyone shall have the right to health, understood to mean the enjoyment of the highest level of physical, mental and social well-being. (2) In order to ensure the exercise of the right to health, the States Parties agree to recognise heath as a public good and, particularly, to adopt the following measures to ensure that right: (a) Primary health care, that is, essential health care made available to all individuals and families in the community; (b) Extension of the benefits of health services to all individuals subject to the State's jurisdiction; (c) Universal immunisation against the principal infectious diseases; (d) Prevention and treatment of endemic, occupational and other diseases; (e) Education of the population on the prevention and treatment of health problems, and (f) Satisfaction of the health needs of the highest risk groups and of those whose poverty makes them the most vulnerable.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1981)
The distinction between individual and peoples rights is not made clear. This charter contains both a right to health and a right to environment.
Article 16 of the Charter guarantees the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health to every individual.
Article 24 declares that all peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.

European Convention on Human Rights (1950)
Many would assume that this convention would contain a provision relating to the environment. However, this is not the case. The European Convention on Human Rights has no explicit provision on the right to a decent environment. As will be shown from case law mentioned further down on this site, the Court has found ways to fix this gap by allowing compensation for environmental damages under other rights, such as the right to life, privacy and family life and freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe has adopted the 1990 Dublin Declaration on "The Environmental Imperative" stating that the objective of the Community action for the protection of the environment "must be to guarantee citizens the right to a clean and healthy environment".

In addition to that, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has recommended considering legal ways in which the human rights protection system can contribute to the protection of the environment. It described its wishes to encourage this process by adding provisions into the European Convention on Human Rights and advised that an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights should be drawn up concerning these rights.

The Parliamentary Assembly has officially recommended for a "Human Right to a Healthy and Clean Environment" in the European Convention and made reference to this and other human rights approaches to environmental issues in PA Recommendations 1130 (1990), 1431 (1999) and 1614 (2003). The Committee of Ministers denied all three... 

© Copyright Muismedia BV