The UN has called for all countries to cooperate and prioritise human rights as a vital part of all efforts to build back better from the pandemic, end interference with the natural environment which caused the pandemic and urgently address the underlying climate crisis.

The report states that Scotland could become a global leader in environmental rights by taking an innovative approach to prevent the shortcomings in implementation and enforcement experienced in other countries.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People and Co-Chair of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership states:

“The recommendations ensure Scotland is an international leader in respecting and enhancing human rights." 

The UN Environment Programme has already identified several international opportunities for Scotland to share its leading approaches to the human right to a healthy environment globally. Hosting the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow is also a great opportunity to showcase Scotland’s pioneering approach.

The recognition of a human right to a healthy environment can contribute to Scotland’s green recovery, maximising learning from the COVID-19 pandemic. It can support the planning for post-COVID-19 recovery to “build back better” and not return to business as usual. The recognition of a human right to a healthy environment can contribute to prioritise environmental protection over unsustainable development approaches as part of Scotland’s efforts to explore the human rights-based approach and the fair transition to net zero.

Professor Alan Miller, Independent Co-Chair of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership writes:

"The recommendations are challenging, ambitious and need bold leadership to implement. It would be by far the biggest step taken in Scotland’s human rights journey… An urgency to take this next step has been provided by the many lessons from the Covid crisis."     

A key policy objective of this Recommendation is to ensure relevant authorities pursue the full implementation of the right to a healthy environment, prioritising the best interests of the child, in progressively advancing the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of the environment, in accordance with the principles of precaution, prevention, integration, polluter pays, and remediation at source.

It also recommends that relevant authorities protect everyone from current and emerging environmental degradation, to avoid unjustified, foreseeable negative impact on human life, health, well-being or children’s development, including by ensuring treatment and accountability for loss.

The New Statutory Human Rights Framework Recommendations report is the culmination of the work of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership since October 2019. The Taskforce Working Group contained members from government, local authority and health sectors, civil society, national human rights institutions, academia and the legal profession.

The role of the Taskforce was to design and deliver detailed proposals for a new statutory human rights framework for Scotland, together with the associated requirements for a public participatory process and for capacity-building initiatives. In doing so it will hold particular regard to the recommendations presented in December 2018 by the First Minister's Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.