Maltese minister promotes healthy environment as a fundamental human right

(source: Unsplash/Francois Kaiser)

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Malta’s Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change José Herrera praised the hard work of champions of environmental justice trying hard to include the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right in the past few years, according to a press statement published by the government’s Department of Information (DOI). The minister participated at the 12th International Convention on Environment and Development held in Havana, in the Republic of Cuba on 1-5 July, attended by environment ministers and world leaders.

The assembly reunited considered not only a fundamental right of citizens to live in a healthy environment, but a duty of society as a whole to pass on a healthy and viable environment to future generations, the DOI press release underscores.

Moreover, Mr Herrera underlined the position taken by the General Assembly of the Council of Europe on 30 September 2009 at the 32nd sitting when debating the report of the committee on the environment, agriculture and local and regional affairs.

In addition, he noted that the whole world is prioritising more environmental justice with 149 out of 193 states have already included the right to a healthy and sustainable environment in their national constitutions. Malta took the same initiative last year when the parliament unanimously included such principles in its constitution, as the press release says. 

During his address, Mr Herrera said that adoption of the right of access to justice in environmental matters on the 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the 4th Ministerial Conference which is commonly referred to as the Aarhus Convention was an important milestone since one of the three underlying principles of this convention was justice. The treaty declares that citizens must be able to go to court if public authorities do not respect and fulfil the requirements created by EU laws, something which most European states nowadays have or are in the process of having.

“To strengthen environmental justice however, we need to widen the scope of the so-called actio popolaris [popular action] for environmental matters, meaning that citizens should be empowered to challenge executive and administrative decisions on environmental issues before the Courts without having to prove that they have a direct judicial interest in the cause,” concluded Mr Herrera. 

During his visit at the Republic of Cuba, Mr Herrera also held bilateral talks with Ms Elba Rosa Peres Montoya, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, and Ms Anayansi Rodrigez Camejo, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.