The relationship between human rights protection and environmental protection is a fascinating, uneasy, and increasingly urgent one. According to Fitzmaurice, there are three main schools of thought. One that supports the view that there are no human rights without an environmental right, another that see the right, both as an already existing or as an emerging one, as a highly questionable proposition, and finally a school that admits the existence of a right to a healthy environment, deriving its existence from other human rights, such as the right to life, the right to health and the right to information. Dinah Shelton, a well known scholar working in both fields of international human rights law and international environmental law, observes the connection: “The international community has adopted a considerable array of international legal instruments, and created specialized organs and agencies at the global and regional levels to respond to identified problems in human rights and environmental protection, although oft en addressing the two topics in isolation from one another.” What is the real relationship between human rights protection and environmental protection at the international level?
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
Linkages Between Human Rights Protection and Environmental Protection in International Instruments
The myriad declarations, international conventions and agreements that address human rights and environmental protection – separately and jointly – reflect the international community's recognition that international actors, particularly States, have obligations in these areas, and individuals, as well as groups of peoples, have a number of rights.
In the international sphere, the earlier evolution of human rights law has influenced and sometimes inspired innovations in international environmental law; in turn, the emergence of a concern for the environment has encouraged international lawyers to explore and attempt to understand and utilise the interrelationship and even interdependence of human rights and environmental protection.
From a historical perspective, the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, which was born in the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, was the first international instrument to establish an explicit link between human rights and environmental protection.