A Human Rights Approach to Environmental Protection: The Case of Ethiopia

Contemporary Legal Institutions, Volume 1, 2009

13 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2013 Last revised: 25 Jun 2016

See all articles by Abadir Ibrahim

Abadir Ibrahim

St. Thomas University - School of Law

Date Written: October 29, 2009


International and domestic environmental law has evolved quite rapidly in the last few decades. At the international level the Stockholm and Rio Declarations paved the way for a broad based consensus of the international community on environmental issues and principles. At the Domestic level also many states have incorporated environmental protection in their constitutions and even more states are doing the same at least in their domestic legislations. In this process of evolution environmental law has unleashed a number of novel principles such as; the participatory principle, the polluter pays principle, the precautionary principle, the inter-generational and intra-generational principles, the prevention principle, the sustainable development principle and so on. And Ethiopia has no been an exception in this regard.

The Ethiopian Constitution explicitly declares that "All persons have the right to a clean and healthy environment". The constitution also announces that the Government has a duty to endeavor to ensure that all Ethiopians live in a 'clean and a healthy' environment. Although the development and expansion of environmental law pre-dates the Ethiopian Constitution the constitution's approach towards the subject is quite unique in that it conceives of environmental protection as an individual human right. As we will see in the proceeding sections the human rights approach to environmental protection has been argued for in international environmental law although without much success. Whereas in Ethiopia, environmental concerns have been formulated almost exclusively in a human rights paradigm. The paper examines this approach both on a theoretical and a practical level.

The first section will set the context in which the "human right to a healthy environment" has evolved in international law and literature so as to have a clearer picture of the constitution's declaration of the same. The second section examines the possible theoretical explanations of constitution's declaration of the right to a safe and a healthy environment. In the third section we shall dwell upon how the right to a safe and a healthy environment imposes a duty upon the government and how the duties may be overcome. And in the fourth section we will consider the relationship of the right under consideration with other human rights contained in the constitution and in international human rights law.

Keywords: international environmental law, human rights, protection, Ethiopia

Suggested Citation

Ibrahim, Abadir, A Human Rights Approach to Environmental Protection: The Case of Ethiopia (October 29, 2009). Contemporary Legal Institutions, Volume 1, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2346775

Abadir Ibrahim (Contact Author)

St. Thomas University - School of Law ( email )

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