Transregional Comparative Lessons in Pursuit of Sustainable Development
Edited by Werner Scholtz and Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 5: Human rights and the environment in the African Union context
The African continent suffers from numerous environmental challenges including, among others, deforestation, desertification, loss of soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, the effects of climate change, and water pollution. Furthermore, living conditions on the African continent are characterised by grinding poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, inadequate water supply and sanitation, and poor health. The bottom 25 ranked nations of the United Nations’ Human Development Report of 2003 are all from Africa. In general, African states face ‘the environmental problems of poverty’and in this context environmental degradation can have a negative effect on the observance of human rights. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has taken note of the relationship between human rights and environmental degradation – in particular climate change – through its adoption of Resolution 153. Resolution 153 recognises the potential contribution of human rights obligations to respond to environmental challenges, such as climate change. Furthermore, the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) affirms the importance of human rights. Article 3(h) includes the promotion and protection of ‘human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the ACHPR and other relevant human rights instruments’ as one of the wide range of objectives of the AU, which also include the promotion of sustainable development and the promotion of cooperation ‘in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples’.
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