On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the BirdLife Partnership calls on the United Nations to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the first time in over 70 years to add a new human right.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is thought to be linked to illegal wildlife trade and the destruction of natural habitats. These human activities dramatically increase the risk of new diseases emerging.

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A new fundamental human right?

Today, in an open letter to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, BirdLife is marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by calling for the UN to take a bold and unprecedented step: declare a healthy natural environment a fundamental human right.

The letter calls on the UN, as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, to add an ‘Article 31’ to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It would enshrine a universal right to a healthy natural environment, guaranteed by public policies, governed by sustainability and by scientific and traditional indigenous knowledge.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights rose from the ashes of World War II, and mapped out for the first time the fundamental human rights that must be protected globally.

Its 30 articles cover subjects such as torture, slavery and education, but crucially, nothing about preserving the environment – on which human and all life depends.

If successful, this amendment would be the first addition since the milestone document was proclaimed in 1948.

COVID-19 is the biggest global crisis since World War II. But whilst the pandemic is devastating, it also gives world leaders a chance, indeed an obligation, to transform society – to further protect our welfare and future generations”, says Patricia Zurita, CEO, BirdLife International.

Our planet’s health is our health. We humans rely on nature for our survival and sanity, but our actions have upset Earth’s natural balance.



Read the full letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres: Open_letter_from_BirdLife_international_Earth_day_eng