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Conservation World Calls to the United Nations: Create a Healthy Natural Environment as Human Rights!

BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK: Today, in an open letter to the UN Secretary General António Guterres, BirdLife International made a call to the United Nations to take a bold and unprecedented step: to declare a healthy natural environment as the most basic human right. The global conservation network conducted the act to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, also as part of the response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The letter contains a call to the United Nations to add “Article 31” to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—to put the healthy natural environment to the universal right, which is guaranteed by public policies, governed by sustainability and by local wisdom both scientifically and traditionally. If successful, this amendment will be the first since the document was proclaimed in 1948.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born post-Second World War, in which basic human rights was mapped for the first time, and must be maintained globally. The declaration contained 30 articles covering issues such as persecution, slavery and education, but none of them concerned the preservation of the environment—on which humans and all life depend.

“COVID-19 is the biggest global crisis since the Second World War. But while the pandemic is happening, while simultaneously providing opportunities for world leaders, it is certainly an obligation to change society—to protect our well-being and future generations,” said Patricia Zurita, CEO of Birdlife International. “The health of the planet is our health too. We as humans depend on nature to survive in sanity, but our actions have upset the balance of the earth's nature.”

We are currently in the grip of a climate and biodiversity crisis, which has put millions of species at risk of extinction and has contributed negative impacts on human health. The roots of the current pandemic were habitat loss and wildlife trade. Along with the climate and biodiversity crisis, COVID-19 re-emphasizes the need and possibility of humanity to be bold, decisive and work together immediately.

“There have been many attempts to engage in a healthy environment in the past”, says Melanie Heath, Director of Science and Policy of BirdLife International. "Today, we hope the appeal of this pandemic is strong enough to awaken the United Nations and citizens of the world to cooperate in restoring nature and protecting ourselves from similar crises in the future.

“Article 31 will be a gift to the world and future generations. Is there a right time to convey this manifest other than on Earth Day?” said Asunción Ruiz, CEO of BirdLife Spain. "Instead of learning from the corona crisis, some leaders cynically use that to turn it around for the protection of the environment. Placing a healthy natural environment as a sacred human right will certainly be an achievement that benefits mankind in the future, as well as the only way to achieve SDGs that have been set by the United Nations.”

The letter urgently calls for the addition of “Article 31” to be included in the United Nations Decade on Biological Diversity. It is also an open invitation to all civil society to provide support; the inclusion of the right to a healthy natural environment is a duty we must guard if we are to protect our well-being, defence and save our planet.