Democracy and Good Governance, a Precondition for Realizing Environmental Justice in Iran
Environmental rights are among the most important human rights issues, including the right to health, the right to life, the free flow of information, and other human rights. On the other hand, despite various global phenomena, including global climate change, Environmental challenges have also become global, and concepts such as sustainable development and environmental justice have been created. Laws also affect the realization of the right to the environment, and countries' laws are also affected by international human rights instruments. But the laws are only enforced in the light of the observance of the principles of desirable governance and democratic standards and promote human rights, including environmental rights. For example, in Iran, the change in governance is a prerequisite for the reform of environmental laws.
One of the important issues of human rights is the right to health. The very wide range of this right requires a broad interpretation of it. As the general interpretation of No. 14 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted in 2000 emphasizes, the right to health encompasses a wide range of social and economic factors, such as a healthy environment that promotes healthy human living conditions. Therefore, the right to a healthy environment is associated with the right to health and access to health services, the right to life, and other human rights. Also, the right to the environment encompasses other important rights, such as the right to the free flow of information, as the people of society must enjoy their rights, including environmental rights and related challenges and threats related to it are aware.
Therefore, the right to a healthy environment is associated with the right to health, the right to life, and other human rights. Today, international environmental rights and human rights have a close relationship with each other. Modern legal rules consider the right to live in a healthy and clean environment as one of the fundamental human rights. The infected environment violates fundamental human rights and leads to poverty and degradation of human status.
Also, the right to the environment encompasses other important rights, such as the right to the free flow of information. People must be aware of their rights, including the right to the environment and its challenges and threats. Especially in today's world, due to various phenomena, including modernity and industrialization, environmental challenges and threats have also become global, and concepts such as sustainable development and environmental justice have been created to address these challenges.
Considering the intensification of the process of globalization and the inclusive nature of many phenomena, such as global climate change - with the characteristics of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence - these phenomena are examined under the title of solidarity rights.
On the other hand, one of the things that have important effects on the environment is subsidies. Seriastar and Pandi's estimates (2001) show that the volume of subsidies paid to improve the environment, including water, is very low, and its effects are limited. Still, the volume of environmentally destructive subsidies is very high, so the payment of unjustified subsidies is now creating various problems worldwide. For example, Mears and Crest (1998) estimated that more than $1.5 trillion would be paid globally for unjustified subsidies, which is higher than the total economy of 5 major countries worldwide, with adverse economic effects, and has negative consequences on the environment.
Global climate change seems to be one of the most important challenges facing the world today; the consequences of migration caused by climate change and water-related tensions could lead to conflicts between countries in the future. Climate change is affected by natural factors and some human activities. Natural factors, such as fluctuations within the Earth's environment and the natural processes around it, besides the consequences of human activities, can be called greenhouse gas production. Given the importance of the subject, the United Nations General Assembly, by issuing a resolution on July 28, 2022, has identified living in a healthy, stable, and clean environment as a fundamental human right. The resolution was passed with 161 positive votes against 8 abstentions, In which Iran is one of those eight countries.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called this step a "milestone." "The resolution reduces environmental injustices, closing protection gaps, And empowering people, especially those who are activists, women, youth, children and indigenous people in vulnerable situations." He added.
Even though a group of these resolutions is inefficient and without the guarantee of adequate implementation, the author believes that issuing such resolutions can promote human rights. Because international human rights are a moving line that is not faced with the traditional challenge of guaranteeing adequate and effective implementation, their development is gradual. In fact, the resolutions issued by the General Assembly of the United Nations can be normative in international law and pave the way for the issue of these resolutions to be identified as fundamental rights in the constitution of countries and guaranteed to be implemented. After adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at ‘the United Nations General Assembly,’ the basis for ratifying the two International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Economic, Social, and Cultural rights - guaranteed by the constitutions to be implemented. Countries included most of the rights enshrined in the two covenants in their constitution.
The Iranian constitution has not paid much attention to the “right to water” and natural resources, in article 45 has declared water as a public wealth and has been in charge of the government. But our country has always faced mismanagement of water resources. Institutions that run water-related rice (usually state-owned or affiliated) do not comply with democratic standards, including the rule of law and transparency, and are not accountable. However, article 50 of our country's constitution emphasizes environmental protection and implicitly accepts the concept of sustainable development. Some ordinary laws have been put in place to protect various areas of the environment. Therefore, the question that comes to mind is why the environmental situation and the right to water are tragic in our country. Let's have a look at these two reasons:
A) Environmental rights management, including water rights in Iran, is a management from top to bottom, not democratic. In this atmosphere, there is no place for management and popular supervision, no transparency and accountability, and elites and experts do not play any role. B) In Iran's governance, human rights are poorly placed, including the environment and the right to water.
The following are suggested to get out of the status quo:
1-.Human rights, including the right to a healthy environment, are only in the light of democracy and observance of desirable and good governance principles, including participation, the rule of law, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, an Independent jurisdictional system, and justice will be realized.
2-.In addition to changing the undemocratic management practices into democracy, water must be recognized as a human right in our country's constitution. In accordance with the day's needs and standards, adequate safeguards must be provided to ensure its realization.
3-.NGOs should play a wider and more effective role in the environment and the “right to water.” But the authorship and activity of popular organizations in Iran are severely limited.
4- Efficient education of people on the environment and the right to water at all levels, including schools, universities, and workplaces.
5- Relocate the environmental organization from the presidential institution to one of the ministries or establish a new ministry called the Ministry of Human Rights or the Environment because the ministry must be accountable to the parliament.
6- The water’s rights of vulnerable and discriminated groups such as women, religious minorities, and vulnerable groups of society should be considered more, and, if necessary, positive discrimination should be applied to them.
7- Eliminating inefficient and harmful environmental subsidies, such as energy subsidies and fuel carriers.
8- Modifying the pattern of water consumption by eliminating inefficient and harmful subsidies belonging to water and giving real prices to water.
9- New low-cost technologies could replace old, worn-out technologies that lead to high water consumption. _____
Mohammad Moghimi is an Iranian attorney who fought for the freedom of imprisoned activists and artists before he was forced to flee Iran and live in exile in Northern Ireland.