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The Human Right to Sustainable Development
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education

Human Rights
apply to:

the aged
differently abled
indigenous peoples
livelihood & land
migrant workers
peace & disarmament
reproductive health
sexual orientation

work & workers

Human Rights & Sustainable Development | Norms and Standards

The Human Right to Sustainable Development

"Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.... In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.... "
--Rio Declaration, Principles 1, 4, and 5, Principles 1 and 4

"We are deeply convinced that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development, which is the framework for our efforts to achieve a higher quality of life for all people. Equitable social development that recognizes empowering the poor, particularly women living in poverty, to utilize environmental resources sustainably is a necessary foundation for sustainable development."
--Beijing Declaration, para. 36, para. 36
"The objective [of development] is to raise the quality of life for all people through ... population and development policies and programmes aimed at achieving poverty eradication, sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, human resource development and the guarantee of all human rights...."
--Cairo Programme of Action, Principle 3 and para. 3.16, Ch. III

Concerns surrounding development policies and their economic and ecological impact are human rights issues. Reinforcing the right of every women, man, youth and child to ecologically sound development are universal human rights standards defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CEDAW, the International Covenants and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations -- powerful tools that must be put to use in implementing Agenda 21 and the other commitments made at Rio!

The Human Rights at Issue

The Human Right of every woman, man, youth and child to Development includes the following universal, indivisible, interconnected and interdependent human rights:

  • The human right to a safe and healthy environment.
  • The human right to the highest attainable standard of health.
  • The human right to an adequate standard of living, including access to safe food, water, and housing
  • The human right of the child to live in an environment appropriate for physical and mental development.
  • The human right to work and to receive wages that contribute to an adequate standard of living.

  • The human right to safe working conditions, including adequate safeguards for pregnant women.

  • The human right to equal access for all persons to productive resources, including land, credit, and technology.
  • The human right to freedom from all types of discrimination
  • The human right to equal access to education and information, including reproductive education.

  • The human right to equality between men and women, including in all matters relating to reproduction, and to equal partnership in the family and society.
  • The human right to full and equal participation in developmental and environmental planning and decision-making, and in shaping all policies affecting one's community and living conditions, at the local, national and international levels.

Human Rights & Development | Norms and Standards 

Norms and Standards

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for ... health and well-being.... Everyone has the right ... to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.... Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which ... rights and freedoms ... can be fully realized."

--Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

"States Parties shall ... ensure the right to social security...; the right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction....  States Parties shall ... ensure ... that [women in rural areas] participate in and benefit from rural development and ... ensure ... the right: ... to participate in ... development planning at all levels; to have access to adequate health care facilities...; to benefit directly from social security programmes; to obtain all types of training and education,  ... to have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform...; to enjoy adequate living conditions...."
--Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Articles 11 and 14

"States Parties ... recognize the right of everyone to ... safe and healthy working conditions.... to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of ... health... The steps to be taken ... to achieve this right shall include... improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene..."

--International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Articles 7 and 12


The provisions outlining the human rights of everyone to sustainable development are more than social goals -- they are obligations included in the most basic international human rights agreements including:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - Articles 2, 22, 25, 26
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Articles 11 and 14
  • International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Articles 2, 3, 11, 12, 13, 15
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Articles 2, 3, 25
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Articles 2, 24, 27, 28, 29

182 Countries are party to one or more of these treaties, indicating the universal recognition of the human right to sustainable, ecologically sound development.

The most fundamental of all rights is threatened by environmental degradation and unsustainable development -- the right to life

The Right to Sustainable Development is a Human Right!


For more information, please contact PDHRE

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325;
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org