Incorporate healthy, clean environment as fundamental right

It is time for a broad bipartisan vote to incorporate the right to a clean and healthy environment into the Constitution

A clean, health environment - a fundamental right - small escapes by franzisko hauser/Flickr

The Association for Community and Dialogue welcomes a new resolution by the UN Human Rights Council which recognise access to clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right.

These resolutions are long overdue, due to various questions about what constitutes a clean and healthy environment. This could entail having to see things from a broader perspective that could challenge prevalent notions and actions related to vested interests.

The vote on the fundamental right to a clean environment had the overwhelming support, despite criticisms in the lead-up from some countries, notably the US and the UK.

One wonders what these criticisms were about, as these countries have been preaching to others about climate change.

Interestingly, smaller nations have taken the lead in this resolution. The text resolution proposed by Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland was passed with 43 votes in favour and four abstentions from Russia, India, China and Japan.

Obviously, some big countries that oppose, criticise or abstain, could be of the view that a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental human right could open up the environmental perception to a broader variable of environmental justice.

For example, it would cover pollution caused by military expeditions such as the bombing of territories during a war or the selling of weapons to proxies in a geopolitical war that pollutes the environment. The people who are living in such territories have every right to a clean and healthy environment.

Besides this, there are also economic factors: big multinational oil companies from these nations pollute the environment of poorer countries, with little accountability.

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Malaysia, for its part, should take heed of this resolution and incorporate the right to a clean environment in the Constitution. We have not yet come up with research reports on deaths caused by air pollution in the country.

If we are really serious about the sustainable development goals that have been incorporated into the 12th Malaysia Plan, it is time for a broad bipartisan vote to incorporate the right to a clean and healthy environment into the Constitution.

This would guide and inspire the younger generation to pay more attention to environmental justice that serves the common good of all Malaysians. – New Straits Times

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