Inter-American Court recognizes healthy environment as essential for human existence

The decision was made in response to a request filed by Colombia in 2016

DATA: 18.10.2017 FOTO: SIDNEY OLIVEIRA /AG. PARÁ DATA: 18.10.2017

On February 7, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognized, in Advisory Opinion 23/17, that the environment is intrinsically linked to the enjoyment of other human rights. This is the first time that the Court has ruled on the guarantee of access to a healthy environment.

Advisory Opinion 23/17 was issued in response to a request filed by Colombia in March 2016 and the Court’s decision also established a series of obligations to be fulfilled by States. Among these obligations are the prevention of significant environmental damage within or outside the territory of the State, cooperation with other States, and the guarantee of access to justice and the right of public participation in decision making.

  • Read the statement on the decision, in full
  • Read Advisory Opinion 23/17, in full

“Recognition by the Court is an important step for States to be pressured to adopt environmental preservation policies both internally and in cross-border cases. As a result, States that violate the obligations may be summoned to answer to the Court, causing international embarrassment,” said Caio Borges, coordinator of the Development and Socioenvironmental Rights program at Conectas.

In the Court’s interpretation, human rights, sustainable development and the environment are indivisibly and interdependently related and, therefore, must be respected and guaranteed together. The Court ruled that this guarantee is broad and not restricted to the territorial limits of States and, therefore, the obligations assumed after the decision should take this into account.

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