Race, Racism and the Law
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117. Environmental racism is a human rights violation and is a form of discrimination caused by government and private sector policy, practice, action or inaction which intentionally or unintentionally, disproportionately targets and harms the environment, health, biodiversity, local economy, quality of life and security of communities, workers, groups, and individuals based on race, class, color, gender, caste, ethnicity and/or national origin.
118. We condemn the abuse of all forms of power, greed, and exclusion of victims of environmental racism from decision-making, unequal enforcement, non-existent or ineffective environmental laws and regulations, manipulation of media and language barriers to perpetuate and conceal the environmental harms to human health, displacement of people, depletion of natural resources, and the degradation of biodiversity all of which are manifestations of environmental racism targeting Indigenous Peoples, Africans and African descendants, Asians and Asian descendants, Middle Eastern Peoples, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Caribbean Peoples, ethnic and national minorities and groups, and other social groups most vulnerable to practices of unsustainable development and militarization, especially children, women, the elderly, displaced, immuno-suppressed, as well as low and no income people.
Programme of Action
310. To promote sustainable development, governments must develop, improve, and apply economic, health, and social indicators to assess the quality of life for people impacted by environmental racism, implement a just transition to clean, affordable and sustainable modes of production, and pollution prevention, develop, apply, and transfer to all States information and technologies that can reduce and eliminate environmental health hazards and enable the thorough remediation of contaminated sites, ensure medical services to persons suffering from toxic exposure, develop laws which prohibit transboundary, especially from industrialized to non-industrialized countries, and intra-border deposition of toxics and polluting technologies, which degrade the environment and harm human health, urge UN agencies, international and regional financial mechanisms, and donor countries to reform their loan and grant-making practices and provide the resources that enable all States to develop, improve, and implement the laws, policies, and practices as called for by this program of action.
311. Governments must establish, comply with, and enforce international conventions, treaties, declarations, national laws, and policies that ensure the fundamental rights of all people to clean air, land, water, food and safe and decent housing. Such legal instruments and policies must provide protection for urban and rural communities, workers, especially agricultural laborers, from environmental hazards that disproportionately impact people who have historically been subjected to discrimination based on race, class, color, gender, caste, ethnicity and/or national origin, ensure the right of all people to meaningful participation in decision-making on environmental and health issues, including culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and education as well as guarantee fair access to judicial and administrative proceedings and remedies for environmental racism, and establish legally binding instruments and mechanisms to hold states and corporations accountable to international and domestica laws protecting human rights.
312. Governments must ensure that all governmental policies and practices adhere to the principles of precautionary approach and polluter-pays as provided in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Develop and implement programs of sustainable development with the involvement of those affected by environmental racism and other non-state actors in order to redress and improve health, environmental, and economic conditions. Establish programs to protect people from environmental racism caused by military, governmental, and industrial activities. Such programs must include protection from dangerous health threats, remediation of environmental degradation caused by the military, governments, and industry, as well as the disposal of toxic stockpiles that meets 100% efficiency. Reform economic development policies with mechanisms for prioritizing health, social, cultural, and religious/spiritual values.
313. As full partners in the eradication of environmental racism and quest for sustainable development, the NGO Forum calls upon NGOs to: foster meaningful national and international participation in public and private decision-making affecting local communities and their environments; study the effects of environmental racism on our communities; identify and publicize the effects of environmental racism on workers and communities; educate civil society on the impacts of environmental racism; advocate for public and private sector policies and laws that protect natural resources, eliminate contamination affecting communities, and restore contaminated environments; provide victims of environmental racism with legal advisory assistance to access justice and attain fair compensation; and develop regional environmental justice networks to share information, strategies, lessons learned, engage in mutual solidarity actions, and monitor the compliance and enforcement of the obligations of industry, governments, and intergovernmental agencies to make possible equitable and sustainable development. The NGO Forum calls on governments, intergovernmental agencies, UN agencies and other financial mechanisms, and philanthropic organizations to provide the financing and technical assistance necessary to enable NGOs to carry out this action plan.
Race, Racism and American Law (1993).