UWE lawyer works with the UN on community rights to protect the environment

Issue date: 28 August 2013


Dr Jona Razzaque

A legal expert from UWE Bristol is part of a global initiative to increase understanding of the links between human rights and environmental protection.

Dr Jona Razzaque, Associate Professor of Environmental Law at UWE, is a member of an influential group contributing to the work of Professor John Knox, recently appointed as expert on human rights and the environment by the UN's Human Rights Council.

She is particularly interested in the impact of constitutional rights on communities whose livelihood depends on their environment, such as forest dwellers. She said, “Recently I took part in an event co-organised by Yale University and the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) which looked at the emergence and effectiveness of the right to a healthy environment and the rights of forest-dependent communities around the world.

“The workshop identified key research questions and new concrete initiatives for understanding these rights and enhancing their contributions to environmental justice and sustainability.

“My particular focus is on South and Southeast Asia, and highlighting how good practices can be adopted in places such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China. Case studies include the impact of constitutional rights in India on reducing environmental pollution caused by mining, and of forest law in China on climate change and biodiversity protection.”

Dr Razzaque is a member of UWE's Environmental Law Unit, a group of radical lawyers which recognises that human well-being depends on maintaining the long-term sustainability of ecosystems such as forests and oceans. The Department of Law at UWE is an institutional partner of The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law that aims to build environmental law education capacity and promote the conceptual development of environmental law.

Dr Razzaque continues, “UWE's membership of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law means that students can study courses which have real-life relevance to pressing issues facing the world today.

“All human beings depend on the environment in which we live. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation.

“A substantive right to a healthy environment needs to be complemented by participatory environmental rights such as rights to information, participation and justice. When people are able to learn about, and participate in, the decisions that affect them, they can help to ensure that those decisions respect their need for a sustainable environment.

“Many States incorporate a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. However questions about the relationship between human rights and the environment still remain unresolved. This is why the UN Human Rights Council decided to study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and promote best practices relating to the use of human rights in environmental policymaking.”

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