Essay on "The Human Right to a Healthy Environment"

The environmental degradation-human rights relationship is found in each and every one of the universally recognized human rights. For example, the right to equality before the law is affected by the disproportionate way in which certain sectors of the population bear the environmental burden - environmental discrimination.

In the search for a policy of balance and justice between men and nations, in the 1945th century precepts emerged that gave rise to the formal recognition of human rights. Subsequently, the United Nations Organization was created, which since XNUMX has been promoting, legitimizing and consolidating the protection of the powers and prerogatives that every human being has: Promote and defend the development of integrity and human dignity regardless of sex, race, age. , physical condition, religious belief, family origin, social condition, and political conviction, which have been the great objectives that drive it.

Originally, human rights are going to protect man against the direct actions of other men, thus protecting the weak from the abuses of stronger others or of the same state that uses legitimate violence in an arbitrary or inequitable manner.

With the Constitutions of 1857 and 1917, Mexico was a pioneer in matters of Human Rights; expressly recognizing in them the individual rights and guarantees of people and social rights, particularly the Constitution of 1917 was the first in the world to incorporate rights with high social content, the concerns of the time did not consider matters related to the environment. but they did maintain a concern for natural resources.

Mexico, a country with the capacity to build structures that allow national leadership under a long-term strategic vision and with full awareness of the global problem represented by human rights violations, which unfortunately we have not been immune to, actively participates in the commitments international agreements entered into before bodies such as the UN, to strengthen the principle of human equality and offer citizens opportunities for comprehensive human development and coexistence based on respect for legality and the effective exercise of human rights. Not only for having subscribed to the Universal Declarations of Human Rights of 1948 and 1966, but for its historically humanist spirit that has promoted compliance with these precepts in its legislation, in this way we can see that humanism led man to care about the environment, later this concern of illustration leads us to know nature.

History of rights

Trying to make a historical approach to the origin of human rights and overcoming the aforementioned divergences, we would have to refer to a series of important facts that have contributed to the development of these rights. In this sense, as José Thompson points out, in his book "Education and Human Rights", published by the Inter-American Institute, a first stage would be constituted by Greco-Roman humanism, as in its eastern origins, the so-called Hamurabi Code, which It is the first to regulate the well-known Law of Retaliation, establishing the principle of proportionality of revenge, that is, the relationship between aggression and response.

In the work of Sophocles, there is a precedent for the concept of human rights, when in Antigone, this character responds to King Creon, who contravened his express prohibition to bury his brother's body, had buried him acting "in accordance to unwritten and immutable laws of heaven". With this idea in the work of Sophocles, alluding was made to the existence of rights not established by man, but which also correspond to him by his own nature, because they are inherent to his condition as a human being in this way the literary work of Reference allows us to evaluate human finitude in the face of the phenomenon of nature and its cycles.

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament constitute another precedent in the history of human rights, since by establishing prohibitions, fundamental values ​​of human beings were being recognized, such as the right to life, by prescribing "not killing." , For example.

On the other hand, in Stoicism, another important mention is made "with the precision of the concept of natural law and the development of natural law based on rationality and culminated in a cosmopolitanism, which would bring men closer," as José Thompson points out in the aforementioned publication.

Christianity gave rise to a new stage in the historical development of human rights, by proclaiming equality among human beings and rejecting violence. All of this contributed to the acceptance of principles, especially among oppressed peoples and slaves.

However, it was also Christianity and especially Protestantism that aroused confidence in the human race vs. Nature and its forces.

Later, despite the existence of monarchical absolutism and as a fight against these regimes, some rights were consolidated. The Reform and Counter-Reformation movements that sought greater freedom in terms of religious beliefs also gave their contribution.

But, it was in 1215 when the first express consecration was given that established limits to the power of the State against its subjects in the Magna Carta, which together with the habeas corpus of 1679 and the Bill of Rights of 1689, constitute the antecedents of the modern declarations of rights.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, a series of historical events took place in which the ideas of freedom and equality of human beings were present. All of them contributed to the conceptualization of human rights.

The ideas of Charles Montesquieu (1689 - 1755) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) in France are fundamental. Montesquieu severely criticized the abuses of the Church and the State. By studying the French institutions and customs of the time, he gave precise forms to the theory of parliamentary democratic government with the separation of the three powers, legislative, executive and judicial, as a mechanism of reciprocal control between them, theoretically ending the concentration of power. power in the same person and the consequent abuses and abuses that the unrestricted power of the monarch against human beings had historically produced.

For his part, Juan Jacobo Rousseau, vigorously denounced the injustices and miseries resulting from the social inequality of his time, advocated the idea of ​​a society based on absolute equality, in which each member, while submitting to the decisions of the collective , is at the same time part of the sovereign people, whose general will constitutes the Law. These ideas of Rousseau favored the development of the concept of human rights by proposing the need for the existence of equality between men, who must submit their will individual to the will of the collective, with the aim of achieving well-being for all. It was also this thinker who returned the idea of ​​nature and its relationship with man.

In 1776 the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and approved by the United States on July 4 of that year, proclaimed the following: "We hold as true evidence that all men are born equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain rights. inalienable rights, among which is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...", enshrining some individual rights.

But the conceptual development of individual human rights reaches its greatest richness in the liberal ideas of the French Revolution in 1789, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, where the universal nature of human rights and their belonging are expressed. to man for being human. This Revolution occurred at a time when millions of people were subjected to oppression.

Later, after the recognition of individual rights, a new struggle begins. Labor movements undertake the defense of human rights from a collective perspective, more broadly, it is the moment in which workers demand their demands. The Mexican and Russian revolutions of 1917 constitute decisive historical events for the legal consecration of these collective rights, which have been called economic and social rights in domestic legislation.

Another important event in the history of human rights is the Second World War, since its aftermath contributed to the international community directing its interest towards the establishment of these rights in international declarations and pacts, which allowed the recognition and supervision of the same, beyond the internal scope of each State, as we will explain later.

All of these movements, which we have reviewed succinctly, made their contributions to the enshrinement of human rights both in the internal constitutions of the different nations and in international instruments. At the same time, we are seeing how these rights are linked to a healthy environment as a requirement for a healthy and harmonious life with nature.

"Human Rights are prerogatives that, according to international law, a person has against the State to prevent it from interfering in the exercise of certain fundamental rights, or to obtain from the State the satisfaction of certain basic needs that are inherent to every being. human for the mere fact of being human."

There are different international treaties that regulate human rights, among others those signed under the auspices of the United Nations. It is also noted that "Human Rights are a set of principles, universally accepted, constitutionally recognized and legally guaranteed, aimed at ensuring to the human being his dignity as a person, in his individual and social, material and spiritual dimension."

All people are born with rights that belong to us due to our condition as human beings. Its origin is not the State or laws, decrees or titles, but rather the very nature or dignity of the human person. That is why when a law violates human rights it is considered null and void because it goes against human nature itself.

All people: women, men, boys and girls have rights. That's why it doesn't matter what race, sex, culture or religion we have; Nor does it matter the nationality or the place where you live. Each person has the same dignity and no one can be excluded or discriminated against from the enjoyment of their rights. However, in order to enjoy these rights, a healthy environment is required.

The human person cannot, without affecting their dignity, renounce their rights or negotiate them. Nor can the State dispose of the rights of citizens. It is understood that in extreme situations some rights may be limited or suspended, but never alienated.

An exception is the obligations that we acquire when defending the environment. In this case, limitations must be established on the right to property of land or natural resources, in such a way that the right can be exercised if it does not affect the environment.

We will exemplify, on the one hand, that the fact that constitutional guarantees are suspended due to certain circumstances does not imply that the rights disappear or are extinguished, but rather that for a limited period of time and within the reasons that gave rise to the suspension, the forms of protection are subject to restrictions; However, the right to life, to not be tortured or held incommunicado, remain valid.

On the other hand, the right to political participation that contemplates the election of our rulers, the control of their actions, participation in decision-making, among other things, does not imply that we negotiate our right with the politician or political party of our choice.

As humanity changes, so do needs, which is why over time we conquer new rights, which once achieved are part of the heritage of human dignity. Once human rights are formally recognized, their validity does not expire, even when the current situations that led to them being claimed have been overcome, this is the case of the right to a healthy environment.

No one can attack, harm or destroy human rights. This means that people and governments must be governed by respect for human rights; The laws issued cannot be contrary to these and neither can the economic and social policies that are implemented, in this same case we could interpret this idea in the sense that a law that affects the environment is an unjust law insofar as it affects human rights. to a healthy environment.

International organizations

The League of Nations, created in Geneva in 1919 after the First World War, although it promulgated a proclamation on the rights of national minorities and some norms of social protection, and saw the creation on the same date of the International Labor Office, never adopted a declaration of human rights as Guy Lagelée and Gilles note in their book "World Conquest of Human Rights." The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is one of the greatest achievements of the new United Nations Organization (UN). The Roosevelt Declaration, also called the "Four Freedoms", is in line with at least seven founding texts, proclaiming that "freedom lies in the validity of human rights everywhere. The Atlantic Charter signed by the United States and Great Britain Britain in August 1941, while explaining what the objectives of the war were, partially summarizes the "Four Freedoms" enunciated by Roosevelt and especially affirms the "freedom of opinion, expression, confession and the right to be protected against natural needs"

The United Nations Declaration of December 1, 1942 signed by the countries at war, which affirmed their conviction that "a complete victory" over their enemies Germany and Japan was essential "to preserve human rights and justice in their own country and in other nations", The Philadelphia Declaration of May 10, 1944 of the International Labor Organization marks the concern of States and civil society with regard to human rights, The declaration of the Conference of Dumbarton Oaks October 1944 stated that "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms" was related to the return to peace, The Declaration of the Chapultepec Conference February 21 to March 8, 1945 in which 21 States of the American continent proclaim the principle of equal rights for all men "whatever their race or religion." The San Francisco Conference adopts the Charter of the United Nations June 26, 1945, which refers seven times to the human rights. The Charter reaffirms the faith of the United Nations "in the fundamental rights of humanity, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women" and undertakes to promote "universal respect and effective implementation of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language or religion".

At the beginning of 1946 and in accordance with article 68 of the Charter, the Economic and Social Council established a Commission on Human Rights. At its first session, the General Assembly handed over to the Commission on Human Rights a draft declaration on human rights and fundamental freedoms "for consideration in developing an international declaration on human rights." A drafting committee of the Declaration, chaired by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and composed of eight States among which France was represented by René Cassin, China by Peng-chun Chang and Lebanon by Charles Malik, began work.

The Commission, whose meetings were held in Lake Success, near New York, and in Geneva, between 1947 and 1948, had the task of drafting an International Bill of Human Rights that would include a Declaration of Human Rights and a Convention that would soon pass. to be called the Covenant on Human Rights.

In the two years that the preparation of the Universal Declaration lasted, the members of the Drafting Committee always maintained a neutral zone and a common objective: respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. Although they did not always agree on all issues, they decided to include in the document the principles of non-discrimination, civil and political rights, and economic and social rights. They also decided that the Declaration should have a universal character.

René Cassin was one of the main authors of the future declaration. His project, which constitutes the basis of the Declaration approved the following year, was based on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and on a Supplement to that declaration prepared in 1936 by the National Congress of the League of Human rights. The proposed text was based on the principles of civil and political rights of 1789 and introduced economic, social and cultural rights. The small number of articles dealing with these latter rights caused the Soviet Union and its allies to abstain from the vote.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris, at the Palais de Chaillot, was adopted on December 10, 1948. Forty-eight countries approved the Declaration: Afghanistan, Argentina, Belgium, Burma, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, United States of America, Ethiopia, Philippines, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iraq, Iran, Iceland, Lebanon , Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Siam, Syria, Sweden, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela. Eight countries decided to abstain: Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Soviet Union, South African Union and Yugoslavia.

On the same day, the General Assembly asked the Commission on Human Rights to prepare a draft covenant on human rights and to consider the measures necessary for its implementation. The Declaration of Human Rights was completed 18 years later in 1966 by two international covenants as well as by protocols that guarantee its application, texts that did not come into force until 1976 after their ratification by the States, that is, about 30 years later. of the adoption of the Declaration! The expression International Bill of Human Rights encompasses a set of texts that includes the Declaration, the two covenants adopted in 1976 and the two corresponding optional protocols.

The Declaration, which is presented as the "common ideal towards which all peoples and nations must strive" is not, as Guy Lagelée and Gilles Manceron point out, "an international convention but is a simple resolution adopted by the General Assembly. It is not It has more than a moral force that does not carry a precise legal connection, except for the States that have included it in their own Constitution. Its scope is important due to the universality of the message it expresses: it is the first common reference to all the peoples of the Earth. regarding fundamental freedoms and human rights. The Declaration will become a source of inspiration for numerous national constitutions both in its articles and in the introductory preambles. It had and continues to have a great influence on the evolution of international law .
The rights contained in the Declaration and the two Covenants have been developed in more than 60 legal instruments, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), which declares that any dissemination of ideas based on superiority o racial hatred must be punished by law; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), which provides for the measures to be taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women with regard to their public and political life, their education, your job, your health, marriage and family; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which lists the guarantees necessary to promote the fundamental rights of the child.

Human rights impose a specific obligation on people and the State to respect them even if there is no law that says so. It is clear then that it is obligatory to respect all human rights that exist in our laws and also those that do not yet exist, such as the right to conscientious objection (that is, the right not to perform military service for reasons of moral or religious beliefs) or the right to collective ownership of land in the case of indigenous communities, and many others.

This characteristic refers to the fact that the international community can and should intervene when it considers that a State is violating the human rights of its population. In this sense, no State can argue a violation of its sovereignty when the international community intervenes to require that a violation of human rights be corrected.

Human rights are related to each other, in the same way they are related to environmental protection through UNEP. That is, we cannot make any separation or think that some are more important than others. The denial of any particular right means endangering the person as a whole, so the enjoyment of any right cannot be done at the expense of others. Thus, we cannot fully enjoy our right to education if we are not well fed or if we lack adequate housing, nor can we exercise our right to political participation if we are denied the right to demonstrate or be well informed.

Right to a Healthy Environment

Environmentalists point out that one of the most important dates for the defense of the environment was the year 1972 in which the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment met and was held in Stockholm in 1972, already by that time. Víctor E. Urquidi tells us that some industrialized countries had undertaken environmental improvement programs since the 60s that were the basis for the more general guidelines, which later in the 70s began to be given by the Organization for Economic Recovery and Development (OECD). and the European community.

Before this time, economies had shown few signs of caring about the environment; in the same way, for developing countries, environmental policy lacked real drive; little by little, research began to emerge in large industrial centers as a growing concern for signs of environmental worsening on a global scale that could have serious consequences on climate regimes and phenomena such as the thinning of the ozone layer, which, as is currently known, protects the planetary atmosphere from ultraviolet rays, in many cases these concerns They were for the very health of man.

Simultaneously, concerns began about the effects of the absolute growth of the world population, which in many parts of the world had growth rates higher than 2%. It was at this time that systematic considerations of the social effects of environmental deterioration began.

One of the documents that drew the most international attention on the state of the environment was the report of the Blundtland Commission, which was published in 1987 and was widely disseminated under the name "Our Common Future", curiously unlike Among other reports from special commissions of the United Nations, this report served as the basis for the convening of the Conference on Environment and Development that took place in Rio de Janeiro in July 1992. One of the most important documents, a product of the meeting of Rio de Janeiro was what was known as "Agenda 21" which was a series of recommendations in all areas of interest for the environment.

By this time, the Montreal Protocol had already been signed, which was promoted by the United Nations Environment Program and referred to the protection of the ozone layer as an international concern.

At this meeting in Rio de Janeiro to which we refer, a general declaration endorsed by more than 170 heads of state and government was signed, which enshrined the objective of sustainable development.

Since 1989, when the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall occurred, a process known as Globalization has occurred that affects all nations to a greater or lesser extent. In 1991 the Club of Rome had studied the first global revolution considering all these phenomena that consist of a complex multiplicity of factors interrelated by rigidities of structures inherited from other times, resistance of all kinds, human values ​​of all types, and new regional alignments. and national ones that interact in the social, political and economic sphere and naturally affect the deterioration of the environment, at all levels, even though it originally has its main origin in agricultural, transportation and distribution industrial activity as well as the use of increasing amounts of energy than based on hydrocarbons that were made since the end of the XNUMXth century.

We must start from the principle that all rights are fundamental, so we should not establish any type of hierarchy between them, much less believe that some are more important than others. It is difficult to think about having a decent life if we do not enjoy all the rights. Violating any of them is an attack on human dignity, which is based on equality and freedom, as established in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration when it establishes that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

If we start from the definition of integrity as integral parts of a whole, it is clear that in the case of human rights it means that they are indivisible and interdependent. As stated by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in his 1992 report on the realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: all human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible and interdependent; Equal attention and urgent consideration must be given to the application, promotion and protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

In short, we understand integrity as also stated by the Special Rapporteur when he states that the promotion, respect and enjoyment of certain fundamental human rights and freedoms cannot justify the denial of other fundamental rights and freedoms.

That evidently we do not enjoy the right to health if the State does not guarantee good public services and adequate care in hospitals. That obviously we do not have a decent life if we do not have fair salaries or good working conditions.

We will only have access to education if we have decent housing and good food.
There is no democracy if we cannot freely exercise the right to demonstrate to defend our rights or requests. We will make the integrity of human rights a reality when we educate, fight and demand from the State the validity of all human rights equally and for all.

Environment and Human rights

Environmental damage affects the use and enjoyment of human rights. This is not only a fact but has been recognized by the international community on repeated occasions. The United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment in 1972 (Stockholm Declaration), the Hague Declaration of 1989, the United Nations Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro 1992), the report of the special rapporteur on human rights and environment of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights (Ksentini Report 1994), are some examples of the recognition of the link between human rights and the environment by the world community. Thus, any attempt to hold legally responsible for the environmental damage caused is directly linked to the company's responsibility for human rights violations, Dr. Romina Picolotti points out to us, in a conference on human rights and the environment.

Dr. Ksentini, United Nations Special Rapporteur, in her final report on environment and human rights points out that:

The preservation of the natural balance, the conservation of the stability of the ecosystem, the preservation of natural resources, in short "the permanence of planet Earth is essential for the generation and preservation of life and requires urgent actions by virtue of the current scale of the environmental damage and its impact on human beings, on their well-being, on their dignity, ultimately on the effective enjoyment of their fundamental human rights."

"The relationship between environmental degradation and human rights is found in each and every one of the universally recognized human rights. For example, the right to equality before the law is affected by the disproportionate way in which certain sectors of the population bear the environmental burden. -environmental discrimination-, the right to work is affected by the environmental conditions of the workplace, the right to property is affected by environmental degradation, etc.

The impact of the consequences of environmental degradation not only affects in a new way the effective enjoyment of human rights, but also severely deepens already existing problems that affect the majority of the most vulnerable populations, regions, and countries in the world, imposing a tremendous burden for its development. "The environmental dimension of human rights refers not only to the environmental interpretation of already recognized rights but also requires the express recognition of specific rights. At the international level there are no legal instruments necessary to protect victims of environmental degradation. However, given the urgent need to generate some type of protection, international human rights organizations have begun to accept cases of environmental abuses," concludes Romina Picolotti.

The United Nations human rights system is made up of several protection mechanisms: special rapporteurs, country reports, individual cases, etc. On the topic of corporate liability, it is worth mentioning the case of Bernard Ominayak & The Lubicon Lake Band v Canada.

The petitioners, an indigenous community, alleged that the State had deprived them of their rights by granting oil and gas exploitation on lands belonging to the community. The Human Rights Committee understood that oil and gas exploration constituted a threat to the way of life and culture of the indigenous community. The Committee resolved that the Canadian State, through the concessions granted, violated the right of minorities enshrined in article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It is appropriate to highlight in this case the preventive value of the resolution. The Committee acts to prevent the violation by the company, given the threat of damages implied by the concession to private companies of gas and oil exploration, which means that the State, in order to comply with the resolution of the international organization, does not interrupts business activity but prevents its start.

Environmental degradation in the European system for the protection of human rights, in the case of Ana María Guerra.- The plaintiffs alleged pollution by a chemical company "ENICHEM Agricoltura" located near the town Manfredonia; the danger of serious plant accidents; and the absence of regulation by public authorities. Invoking Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees the freedom to receive information, the petitioners alleged inter alia failure of the State to comply with its obligation to inform the public about the danger and the measures to be taken in the event of a major accident, such as It was prescribed by local law.

The European Commission on Human Rights took up the case and found that the company had been classified as high risk under domestic law and that there had been accidents at the plant including an explosion that had sent more than 150 people to hospital. A technical commission from the city of Manfredonia ruled that according to studies carried out by the company itself, the treatment of its emissions was inadequate and the environmental impact study was incomplete. The European Commission ruled that the company was polluting with complete impunity, that the State had not complied with its domestic law, had not taken any action to hold the company responsible for the damage caused and had not taken any action to inform the population. about the situation of the plant and the cessation of its chemical production.

The decision focused primarily on the interpretation of the State's duty under Article 10. The petitioners insisted that they requested information from the State that they could not obtain from other sources.

Environmental degradation in the European system for the protection of human rights, in the case of Zander v. Sweden. In the case of Zander v. Sweden, the petitioners alleged that they had been denied judicial recourse due to the threat of environmental damage due to the malfunctioning of a waste treatment plant and deposit. Studies of the water tables at the site showed signs of cyanide contamination that came from the waste disposal plant. The municipality prohibited the use of water and temporarily provided the community with drinking water. Finally, cyanide levels were reduced to what was permitted and the municipality stopped providing water. When the company that maintained the waste deposit requested the renewal and expansion of the permit, the petitioners alleged that the threat of contamination of the water tables was sufficient to force the company to provide free drinking water in the event of repeat violations. its pollution. The municipality granted the permit but denied the petitioners their request. The petitioners initiated legal action at the local level but were not denied judicial review of the municipality's decision. The European Court found that Article 6 of the convention had been violated and that under Swedish law it was possible for the petitioners to legally argue that they enjoyed protection against water pollution generated by the company's activities.

Some environmental threats have been deemed too tenuous or remote to sufficiently support a petition. In the case of Balmer-Schafroth and others v Switzerland, the petitioners argued that they had the right to judicial review of the administrative decision renewing the operating permit of a nuclear plant. The Court decided that the petitioners had not established the causal relationship between the operating conditions of the nuclear plant and their rights to physical integrity since they did not demonstrate that the operation of the plant exposed them personally to a serious and imminent threat to their rights. .

In the European system we will analyze the Lopez Ostra vs Spain case. The petitioners had suffered serious damage to their health as a result of contamination from a tannery waste treatment plant that operated next to the apartment where they lived. The company had begun its activity in July 1988 without the corresponding administrative permit and without even having initiated the procedure to acquire it. The malfunction of the plant occurred from the beginning, the company in its activity released toxic gases, thus producing pollution in the air that immediately caused health problems in the people who lived in the area. The municipality decided to evacuate local residents and offered them free housing during the summer. Despite this, the administrative authority allowed the company to partially resume its operations. In October the petitioners returned to their home where the problems continued due to the malfunction of the plant. Finally, the petitioners decided to sell their property and move in 1992.

The European Court of Human Rights recognized that environmental pollution can affect individual rights. It also established that it is possible to justify a certain degree of environmental degradation in pursuit of the country's economic advancement. To operate this cause of justification, environmental damage must be a consequence of an authorized legal activity that produces an economic benefit for the general community without producing a disproportionate burden on the right of an individual. The Court then recognizes that the State enjoys a margin of appreciation in determining the proportionality, legality and legitimacy of the objective pursued with the economic activity carried out. In this case, the Court ruled that the State had exceeded its margin of appreciation and awarded Ms. López 4 million pesetas plus legal fees and expenses. The State decided to temporarily suspend the factory's activity.

What is interesting about this ruling is the Court's effort to harmonize economic development with the human rights of individuals. That is precisely what it is about, we are not against economic development that respects the human rights of individuals and peoples, on the contrary we support it and recognize its value in the use and enjoyment of economic and social rights. But we do firmly oppose unsustainable economic activity that is incompatible with the permanence of human life on earth. Abuse of the environment not only threatens the human rights of individuals but also the economic development of people.

Jurisprudence of cases of environmental degradation in the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.

The inter-American system has addressed the issue of environmental degradation linked to human rights and business specifically in its country reports (Ecuador and Brazil) and in the individual cases of the Mayagna Sumo community vs. Nicaragua and Yanomami vs. Brazil.

In its report on Ecuador in 1997, the Commission referred to the human rights situation in eastern Ecuador and the environmental degradation perpetrated by oil exploitation activities. The Commission pointed out that the human rights of inhabitants of the East were affected by the contamination of water, soil and air produced by oil activity. The Commission established that environmental pollution represented a real threat to the rights to life, health, and physical integrity of the inhabitants of the east and requested the State to take measures to protect such rights and prevent future environmental degradation in the area. . The Commission also referred to economic development, establishing that it must be carried out in conditions of respect for human rights. The Commission requested the State implement the necessary legislation for the protection of the environment and ask companies to repair the environmental damage caused and prevent future damage. Likewise, the Commission recommended that the State take the necessary measures to improve information dissemination systems on environmental issues, improve transparency and opportunities for participation of people affected by exploitation.

The Commission addressed a similar issue of resource exploitation and intrusion into indigenous territory in the cases of the Yanomami indigenous community v Brazil and the Mayagna Sumo community v Nicaragua.

In the case of Mayagna Sumo v Nicaragua, the petitioners alleged, inter alia, that the State had violated their human rights by granting a forest exploitation permit in indigenous territory to the Korean company SOLCARSA SA. The Commission issued precautionary measures in favor of the community that They consisted mainly of the suspension of wood cutting by SOLCARSA. Finally, the State annulled the permit granted and SOLCARSA had to withdraw from the area. The litigation continued until the Court with the main objective of achieving legal recognition of the community's territory. Finally the Court ruled in favor of it.

From the analysis of the jurisprudence presented, we can conclude that international organizations for the protection of human rights have begun to impact business activity that violates human rights by holding the State responsible. In some cases they have even required the State to carry out specific actions with respect to business activity, including demanding that the company repair the damage. Most of the jurisprudence comes from the European system as this is where the majority of cases of environmental degradation have occurred. The inter-American system offers interesting opportunities and its jurisprudence in the case of indigenous communities can perfectly be used in other cases that do not necessarily have these communities as victims, for example in the granting of public services to private companies.

In short, international systems for the protection of human rights are an important tool towards achieving sustainable economic development, respectful of human rights and the environment. It is necessary to continue promoting its use by victims of poor development around the world, and thus collaborate with the main companies involved in finding the path to development that equitably benefits everyone.

By Abraham Bastida Aguilar