Commonwealth welcomes UN resolution declaring healthy environment a universal human right

01 August 2022
Farmer in tonga

The Commonwealth welcomes the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Human rights and the protection of the environment are core values of the Commonwealth Charter. The Secretariat is pleased to note the overwhelming support of Commonwealth member states in favour of the resolution, a clear manifestation of our collective commitment to addressing environmental harm and climate change.

The Commonwealth continues to play a leading role in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. These twin emergencies are an existential threat to humanity, particularly least developed countries and small island developing states. 

At the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Kigali, leaders stressed the urgency of enhancing ambition and action in relation to mitigation, adaptation, and finance in this critical decade, to address the gaps in the implementation of the goals of the Paris Agreement. They also welcomed the substantive progress made at COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact. 

At CHOGM, Commonwealth leaders adopted the Living Lands Charter which recognises the importance of land for people and national economies, while addressing the interrelated challenges of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.  The Commonwealth Secretariat will be working, together with the relevant UN agencies linked to the three Rio Conventions, including the UNFCCCUNCBD and UNCCD, to ensure that member countries deliver on this commitment. 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC emphasised:

“The Living Lands Charter is a testament to our commitment to the people of the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth principles of transparency, consensus, and common action. We are committed to working with member states and partners to deliver this important charter against the backdrop of long-term global crises of biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change, and in the present context of acute food insecurity among some of our small island states and vulnerable members.

“Recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment ensures that the most vulnerable communities in the Commonwealth have a legal recourse when insufficient action is taken to address the climate emergency. The Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit is ready to assist Commonwealth member countries to fulfil their newly established obligations to deliver a Common Future.” 

The newly established right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment empowers both governments and human rights defenders to take decisive action to protect the environment, but also hold public and private actors accountable to their national and international human rights obligations. 


Media contact

Josephine Latu-Sanft  Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

+44 20 7747 6476  |  E-mail