A Law for Human Rights
Why is Ecocide a Human Rights Issue?
The right to life is the most important human right of all; all of our rights are set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With rights come responsibilities. To date, we have not fully codified what our duties and obligations are. For example, many of our resources are being destroyed without thought. The knock-on impact for the health and well-being of our lives is the biggest human rights issue of the 21st Century. The preservation of our rights is inherently linked to the well-being of the Earth: environmental damage and destruction impacts our ability to access resources such as food and water that are essential for our survival. Such shortages can lead to instability and conflict in vulnerable regions.
When our human right to life is at risk of harm on a global scale, we have an over-riding responsibility to put life first. This is why we have created the international crime of Genocide. Now we understand that destruction of ecosystems can also lead to severe consequences which place our human right to life at risk. Human caused Ecocide can and does lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion and atmospheric instability – all of which has wide-scale, long-term and/or severe consequences for humanity.
Ecocide is a crime against humanity as a whole, affecting current and future generations. However, the greatest impacts are felt by some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It is a crime which has no boundaries and its affects are felt globally.
Law of Ecocide as a means to achieve security for humanity
A recent report “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity” examines our challenge for the 21st century; how to eradicate poverty and achieve prosperity within the means of the planet’s limited natural resources. How to live without threat of harm or risk to our lives is a security issue; when our planetary boundaries are pushed to their limits, our lives and the lives of other species are put at risk.
A Law of Ecocide will create an international framework that prohibits humans from causing harm on a global scale. Creating an international obligation that protects our human right to life within an ecological context has the ability to pave the way to ensuring the security of humanity.
The term ‘Ecocide’ is not new. Ecocide was drafted as a Crime Against Peace in the draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1985 – 1996). The code later became known as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998. However, Ecocide was excluded from the final document. You can read about the history of the crime of Ecocide in the report “Ecocide is the Missing Fifth Crime Against Peace” by the University of London’s Human Rights Consortium, who have now launched the Ecocide Project – a two year academic research into the history of the law of Ecocide.