Strasbourg, France

08 November 2021

Secretary-General's video message to the 9th World Forum for Democracy: "Can Democracy Save the Environment"

Watch the video:

It is a pleasure to greet this World Forum for Democracy.

I welcome your timely focus on the link between democracy and a healthy environment.

Both are vital to ensuring that people live lives of dignity, peace and justice – yet both are under assault.

The climate crisis is devastating our natural world – and the window to avert catastrophe is closing fast. World leaders are meeting in Glasgow as we speak for the most important climate conference since Paris.

At the same time, the voices of environmental advocates are being silenced, as human rights defenders are harassed, imprisoned, or worse.

Last year, more than 220 activists were killed while defending the environment — the highest number on record.

These are the people who are ringing the alarm bells the loudest, who are often on the frontline of the climate crisis. Indigenous communities and small-scale farmers bear the brunt of this violence.

We owe it to them to re-double our efforts in defense of human rights, democratic values and a healthy environment.

I see three areas for action:

First, we must build on the landmark recognition by the United Nations Human Rights Council that access to a healthy environment is a human right.

This resolution should serve as a springboard for transformative economic, social and environmental policies that protect people and planet.

Second, we must expand civil society participation in environmental governance and elevate the voices of environmental social advocates – in particular those of young people.

And third, we must advance the environmental rule of law, including by removing financial barriers obstructing access to justice in environmental matters.

Environmental rule of law protects our sustainable future through fundamental rights and obligations. Without it, environmental governance is discretionary, subjective and unpredictable.

Together, we can create a more resilient, decarbonized and sustainable world for all people and future generations. 

Democracy is key to this historic endeavor.

Let us be empowered by it.

Thank you.