Dibeen Association: UN Human Rights Prize
On the path to strengthening the human rights approach to the environment, the UN Human Rights Prize is an affirmative step.
Interest in the environmental field as a human right did not begin with the announcement of a prize here, or a decision there. Activists and scholars in the environmental field, social movements, and later civil society institutions, over more than fifty years, have engaged in multiple areas of discussion, work, and real struggle. Manifestations of climate change and natural hazards now threaten everyone, where the year 2023 has witnessed at least one disaster on every continent of the world. Today, living within what is described as climate collapse with capital-seeking activities ever encroaching on nature and resources, environmental protection may be the most important local action, due to its borderless link to global social and economic survival.
Combining these scientific, popular and societal efforts, the Global Coalition of Civil Society, Indigenous Peoples, Social Movements and Local Communities was formed in 2018 to strengthen efforts toward global recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. For five years, the Coalition has been holding meetings and seminars and mounting advocacy campaigns in multiple spheres: national, regional and global.
Arab environmental associations have participated in the Coalition since its inception, and Dibeen Association for Environmental Development (Jordan) was one of the first to contribute the Arab voice in this global dialogue. Localizing the work and enhancing its Arabic-language content were the primary goals of Dibeen’s membership in the Coalition. Additionally, Dibeen’s engagement emphasized the importance of working with local governments to understand the wider context of the specific popular demands in the Arab region.
The Coalition wrote several letters addressed to governments and permanent missions in Geneva and New York, the most significant of which was a letter to the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 10 September 2020. That message came at a time when the world was subject to strict lock-down measures and consequent economic and social pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It stressed the importance of siding with impoverished people and communities in developing countries so that they could endure the increasing environmental disasters, pollution, and pressure on biological and natural resources that bear on people’s daily lives and livelihoods. The message advocated widespread recognition of the right to environment and urgent decision making, in order to improve environmental-justice policies for greater protection of human rights and empowerment of the people and groups most affected and marginalized, including farmers and workers in fragile and rural areas.
A core group of states, namely Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, sponsored a successful resolution in the Council, whereby states affirmed a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right for the first time, in October 2021. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a similar resolution the following year.
The Coalition’s work continues to build a broad advocacy campaign led by coalition members around the world to urge all spheres of government to recognize and operationalize this right.
One year after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right, the announcement came that the Coalition had received the prestigious United Nations Human Rights Prize in 2023, awarded once every five years.
This prestigious award affirms the efforts of nearly five years, during which the Coalition worked in solidarity and in a harmonious and cooperative manner with all its members from all over the world, through thousands of individuals affiliated with their institutions, with one goal: Building a participatory space for civil and human rights effectiveness to encourage decision makers to recognize this human right.
Working within this right may be one of the most important pillars of effective climate action toward real solutions with human rights at the top of the list of priorities. Efforts now focus on developing the normative content of the right to environment, clarifying the corresponding obligations of states and their constituent organs. Many more steps lie ahead.
Image: Logo of the UN Human Rights Prize 2023. Source: UN