Environmental Justice

and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment

Addressing environmental injustice requires a human-rights based, multi-disciplinary approach that addresses immediate environmental justice needs and tackles the structural inequalities that cause and perpetuate environmental injustice.   

Photo: UNDP Peru environmental justice ROLHR

The right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as recognized by the UN General Assembly is a key entry point to build the future we want.


The world is facing a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, and pollution. These crises undermine the enjoyment and protection of human rights and exacerbate environmental injustices, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, marginalized and excluded people and communities. Today’s environmental crisis is intertwined with the crisis of inequality and is inextricably linked to the protection and fulfilment of human rights and sustainable development.

The human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was recently recognized by the UN General Assembly (2022) and the UN Human Rights Council (2021).  This recognition empowers all people with a critical tool to hold their governments, big polluters and all those responsible for environmental harm to account. UNDP is committed to supporting Member States realize the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as well as strengthening protections for environmental human rights defenders that face reprisals for standing up for our rights and our planet.  

UNDP has developed a global strategy for environmental justice that seeks to increase accountability and protection of ‘environmental rights’ for current and future generations; and promote the environmental rule of law. Central to this is supporting the realisation of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. These objectives are pursued through a three-pronged approach:  

  • building, enforcing and implementing enabling legal and policy frameworks
  • supporting people-centred, effective justice and human rights institutions as key agents of enforcement and implementation of these frameworks
  • legal empowerment and access to justice on environmental matters

Environmental justice requires a rights-based, multidisciplinary approach, that combines the collective expertise and perspectives of human rights, rule of law, justice and security, environment, and other development practitioners. UNDP is committed to advancing the right to a healthy environment and tackling environmental injustices including through providing targeted support to Member States, national human rights institutions, and  other stakeholders as well as brokering knowledge and influencing policy through the Justice Futures CoLab.  

Focal Point

Séan O’Connell  
UNDP Human Rights Specialist  

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2019 ROLHR cover