The Right to a Healthy Environment for a more effective and equitable implementation of the GBF

The integration of a Rights-Based Approach (RBA) is critical for a transformative, comprehensive and measurable post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF) and the realization of a world where all people can live in harmony with nature, in line with Member States’ obligations under international law. The aim is to improve positions rather than just conditions for sustainable change and fairness. Fundamental rights include substantive and procedural rights. Every right has a corresponding duty.

David R. Boyd, the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, states that respect of human rights and a rights-based approach are key to “achieving rapid and ambitious progress in the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.[1]


Human rights and a healthy environment are mutually dependent. Everyone’s ability to enjoy human rights to life, health, food and water depends on healthy ecosystems and their benefits to people; this concerns particularly the rights of children, women, indigenous peoples and local communities;

The current crises of biodiversity loss and land degradation undermine progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by impacting directly on the right to food, water and health, and the ability of Indigenous Peoples, and local and rural communities, men and women, and those most dependent on nature, to continue to sustain their livelihoods. 


Human rights are a cross-cutting issue that needs to be reflected across all elements, goals and targets, of the Global Biodiversity Framework in direct and relevant language, and associated indicators. Moreover, it needs to be monitored and reported. There are ongoing efforts especially by civil society to suggest language to strengthen RBA in GBF[2]. Strategic ways to anchor RBA more effectively in the current draft include:


A new goal: The right to a safe, clean, healthy[hrp1]  and sustainable environment is universally recognised, protected and enjoyed


Add reference to Intergenerational equity at goal level. This is to ensure that future generations can also enjoy the right to nature and its benefits for human well-being. It is important to create space for young people to participate in shaping the decisions that will affect their future. 


A target on thrights of IPLC to land and resourcescustomary sustainable use and traditional knowledge, and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). It is critical to recognize and safeguard the knowledge, its keepers, users and their institutions, to ensure that customary sustainable use remains vital and a strategy to achieve the goals of the convention. Reference to Article 10c[3] of the convention could be further strengthened in the GBF.

Efforts to protect biodiversity need to ensure the empowerment, leadership, decision-making and meaningful participation of women and girls. These could be reflected across several targets and indicators. 

The full and effective participation of Indigenous People and local communities, women and girls and youth is a necessary condition for the implementation of the GBF. This needs to be supported and strengthened with access to adequate financial and other resources to ensure that IPLC, women and others have their voices heard on the implementation of the framework. Full and effective participation is also a principle in the whole-of-society approach and in setting up representative and inclusive multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral mechanisms.

The recognition of the linkages between human rights and the health of the environment is essential for human life and dignity and the achievement of the objectives of the convention.


By Cristina Eghenter, WWF

[1] A/75/161 Human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

[2] See e.g.: Human Rights in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Options for integrating human rights based approach to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity objectives.The document will be made available soon for discussion. This compilation is prepared by a group of participants from the Thematic workshop on Human Rights in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (18-20 Feb 2020), representing Forest Peoples Programme , Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact CBD Alliance, Global Biodiversity Youth Network, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales , Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit  GmbH, ICCA Consortium, Natural Justice, SwedBio at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Tebtebba Foundation, WWF Indonesia and Women4Biodiversity. 

[3] Article 10. Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity (c) Protect аnd encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements.

 [hrp1]Just a comment – add biodiverse to this list?


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