Child's right to nature recognized globally as human right

Steve Hillebrand/USFWS Headquarters

The child's right to nature movement recently hit a major milestone.

In the past five years, several states and cities have adopted an outdoor bill of rights for children. In September, about 150 nations convened at the World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), where they passed a resolution declaring that children have a human right to experience the natural world. “The Child’s Right to Connect with Nature and to a Healthy Environment” resolution proposes that this right be added to the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The resolution states: "Children, since they are an inalienable part of nature, not only have the right to a healthy environment, but also to a connection with nature and to the gifts of nature for their physical and psychological health and ability to learn and create . . . until they have these rights they will not bear responsibility for nature and the environment.”

The resolution adds:

“this birthright can only be realized if we accept responsibility for the preservation and care of the natural world. Most people will do that only if they come to love nature through personal experience.”

The IUCN therefore also adopted the “Jeju Declaration on National Parks and Protected Areas: Connecting People to Nature,” a commitment to a global campaign that promotes these lands as vital to health, communities and economies. 

These decisions demonstrate that across the world many are recognizing the numerous benefits of nature and that natural landscapes must be honored for their inherent values. Connection to wild places is as important to communities as education and employment, and as fundamentally vital as life and liberty. It may not be long before access to experiences on wild lands is officially declared a human right.