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Lynda M. Collins

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a blueprint for a new world. It is a comprehensive and ambitious vision of development that seeks to eradicate long-standing social ills including poverty, hunger, water scarcity, unemployment, inequality (both local and global), corruption and illiteracy. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) articulated in Agenda 2030 have arguably become the primary unifying narrative among global actors including governments, international agencies (such as the World Bank), civil society and multinational business. Despite their laudable goals, the SDGs have received a mixed reception amongst human rights advocates. Some see the adoption of global goals as a weaker alternative to human rights that threatens to undermine the robust, legally binding standards embodied in the human rights system. For others, the SDGs represent the world’s best hope of realizing human rights for all, and particularly for the world’s poorest. While much will depend on implementation efforts, this chapter will argue that the SDGs have the potential to advance and even out-perform human rights, especially in the areas of economic, social and environmental rights. While debates may persist regarding the merits of each approach, there can be no doubt that the SDGs and human rights share a common centre in their concern for human happiness and well-being. At least in one respect, the SDGs attempt a crucial task that has so far proven to be beyond the reach of international human rights law; they seek to preserve the natural systems on which all human rights of future generations will depend.

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Lynda M Collins

This article assesses the evolution of precautionary environmental human rights in the twenty years since Rio, with a focus on security of the person. In particular, the author argues that where there is evidence of a significant environmental threat to human health, coupled with scientific uncertainty regarding the existence, mechanism, or scope of the risk involved, the security of the person of exposed individuals is violated. Taking a precautionary approach to security of the person, and recognizing the integral role of psychology in human wellbeing, the author argues that the requirement to live daily with uncertainty regarding the safety of such fundamentals as air, water and soil violates the psychological integrity of affected communities, and amounts to an infringement of security of the person as protected in both national constitutions and international human rights instruments.