Skip to main content


Humankind depends on a healthy natural environment for survival and procreation. Climate change is one the greatest challenges of the contemporary world. It is the most obvious proof of human activity's destructive effect on the natural environment, which adversely affects our lives. The consequences of climate change and unsustainable use and management of resources, among other things, are causing more and more frequent natural disasters all around the world. All this clearly implies a close relationship between the environment and human rights.


The international human rights framework contains no direct reference to the environment, but environmental aspects are a prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right to life, health, food, water and housing. Only the Aarhus Convention, which Slovenia ratified in 2004, clearly recognises the connection between the environment and the protection of human rights, and grants people an active right to participate in adopting and implementing environmental policies.


States have a duty to protect citizens from environmental degradation which directly affects the right to life and private property. What remains open is the issue of responsibility for cross-border consequences, particularly the effects of global warming. 


In the last decade, the international community has become more aware of the connection between human rights and the environment, and this area is dealt with by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The latter has frequently emphasised the effect of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights. The UN Human Rights Council passed a number of resolutions addressing the connection between human rights and the environment, and in 2012, on the initiative of Slovenia and other countries, the Council  appointed the Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In March 2015, the mandate was extended to 3 years as a Special Rapporteur. The mandate holder remains John Knox.


The right to a healthy living environment is enshrined in Article 72 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia. Article 72 stipulates that national laws shall set forth the individual's right to a healthy living environment,  conditions and manners in which economic and other activities are pursued and conditions to determine compensation in a case of individual's  damage of the living. Additionally, Article 11 of the Environment Protection Act stipulates that "The State shall provide for the elimination of consequences of excessive environmental burdens and shall cover the costs of such elimination if payment of costs cannot be imposed on particular or identifiable persons causing the burden or if there is no legal basis for the imposition of liabilities."


In 2010,  then current Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman held an international conference titled Environment and Human Rights: Public Participation in Environmental Matters. This was one of Ombudsman Čebašek Travnik's priority areas.


Slovenia supports the international community's efforts to link human rights and the environment at the global level. Since 2011, Slovenia has participated in a group of countries which underline the connection between respect for human rights and the enjoyment of safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and table resolutions on this topic to the UN Human Rights Council. Slovenia's activities arise from the firm belief that solving contemporary problems dictates a comprehensive approach which takes into account security and development issues as well as human rights as the foundations of democratic societies and sustainable development. Slovenia thus strives for mutual links and cooperation between various pillars of the international system and their coordinated action.


Right to drinking water and sanitation


In 2010, in Resolution 64/292, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.


The right to drinking water is also a central concern of the UN Human Rights Council; in 2008, it established the mandate of the Independent Expert, now Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.


In the multilateral sphere, Slovenia is a staunch supporter of the international community's efforts to enforce the human right to drinking water and sanitation. It participates in the Blue Group in Geneva, where it strives for the universal human right to drinking water and sanitation. Slovenia also emphasises the link between access to drinking water and human rights in its foreign policy and development cooperation.


In 2010,  then current Independent Expert on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, visited Slovenia. This was the first visit to Slovenia by a UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur.