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World Environment Day Press Statement: Only One Earth

Date of Issue: 05 June 2022

Today we commemorate the World Environment Day 2022 whose theme, ‘Only One Earth’, focuses on living sustainably in harmony with nature. The year 2022 is quite significant as it marks 50 years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference that led to the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme. A key output from the meeting is the designation of 5 June as the World Environment Day.

The theme, ‘Only One Earth’, highlights the need to livesustainably in harmony with nature by bringing collective and transformative changes through policies and choices towards cleaner, circular economy, and greener lifestyles. “Only One Earth”was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference; 50 years on, the motto holds true. This planet is our only home, whose finite resources we must carefully safeguard as honest stewards. Ecosystem degradation affects the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people, or 40 per cent of the world’s population. Without deliberate and targeted interventions to arrest the ecosystem degradation, our existence on planet earth will become threatened. As we celebrate the World Environment Day, we are being reminded to continue pushing for collective and transformative actions to reset the balance between people and the natural world so as to create a better future for all.

Since 1972, financial and human resources have been committed to achieve sustainable development. Despite the integrated efforts, challenges to sustainable development are on the increase. The environment which mankind is dependent on for economic development is under severe and growing pressure because of unsustainable economic development practices.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for environmental rights as human rights.[1] It states that every person has the right to:

  1. an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
  2. have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that:

i) prevent pollution and environmental degradation

ii) promote conservation; and

iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting economic social development.

This is also reflected in the Environmental Management Act and the National Development Strategy 1(NDS1)[2] which provides for Environmental Protection, Climate Resilience and Natural Resources Management. A key tenet in these laws and policies is the need for all stakeholders that include communities, women, youths, Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations, the private sector among others, to effectively participate in policy and decision-making processes.

We acknowledge that even with good laws and policies, a healthy planet and prosperity for all may remain an elusive dream if these laws and policies are not implemented and enforced religiously. Religious enforcement of environmental laws and policies is therefore recommended as key for compliance and the realisation of a healthy planet.

On the 3rd of June 2022, ZELA through its Executive Director, Mr. Mutuso Dhliwayo participated in the Stockholm+50 Leadership dialogue 3 where the discussion was centred around, Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development. The aim of the Stockholm+50 leadership dialogues were to engage governments, international organizations, business and industry, civil-society organizations – including organizations for young people, women, indigenous peoples and local communities, and rural communities and other relevant stakeholders. The dialogue enabled an exchange of ideas on opportunities to overcome barriers to implementation, connect actions, and create new, intergenerational pathways for change to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The organisation made several submissions on how we can solve the environmental crisis focusing on economic systems changes, governance, transitions, and actions that are necessary for this to be achieved. Based on its work with children and youth, ZELA also facilitated the participation of the Junior President of the Senate, Kimberly Gudhlanga at the Stockholm +50 Conference. It is the organisation’s determination to ensure that young people not only have a voice but also equitable access to key enablers of substantive participation.

On this World Environment Day, we reassert our recommendations including the need for:

  • Robust implementation of laws and policies. Zimbabwe has sound laws and policies that can help address environmental issues related to climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution. However, weak implementation and enforcement of these laws and policies is a major obstacle to achieving a healthy environment.
  • Establishment and Operationalisation of Specialised Environmental courts and tribunals. Environmental problems related to loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change, are environmental crimes that affect and undermine the realisation of environmental rights that are recognised and protected under Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. These rights are also buttressed by regional and international law. There are environmental crimes which can be handled better through specialised courts and tribunals.
  • The establishment of environmental courts or tribunals is in line with the recommendation in the Environmental Management Agency Strategic Plan (2021-2025). This will ensure a speedy remedy to any threat to the environment be it in the form of deforestation or pollution. There is also a need to continuously raise awareness amongst stakeholders including the judiciary on the importance of a healthy environment and environmental principles which are in place to protect the environment.
  • Effective participation by all relevant stakeholders in policy formulation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. While Zimbabwe has some progressive laws, policies and regulations that include provisions for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs), the recommendation is that in implementing the legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, the State should ensure inclusive participation of children, people with disabilities and youths to enhance ownership of programmes thereby enabling successful implementation of projects.
  • Sustainable wetlands management so that they can perform all their functions optimally. The disruption of wetland functions has a high cost economically, socially, and ecologically and exacerbates the risk of flooding.
  • Effective participation and engagement of women in environmental governance issues. Women and girls are among the stakeholders that are disproportionately affected by climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and pollution. They are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on climate sensitive natural resources for their livelihoods and as safety nets. Recognition of the differential impact of environmental challenges on women and girls should be reflected in laws, policies, practices, projects, and programmes that are implemented by stakeholders at the local, national, regional, and international levels. 
  • Strengthening the work of civil-society organizations and other key stakeholders in light of the crucial role they play in complementing Government’s efforts in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The design of global participation and inclusion mechanisms must include external and binding monitoring and accountability measures related to biodiversity and climate change policies and commitments, and prior consultation with indigenous peoples.
  • The social contract between governments, citizens, and companies to be renewed, trust rebuilt, and a comprehensive vision of human rights embraced that includes a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment for all.

END//

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

Celebrating two decades of promoting environmental justice through sustainable and equitable utilisation of natural resources and environmental protection.”

Website : www.zela.org  |Twitter: @ZELA_Infor | Facebook: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association | Youtube: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association |Instagram: zela_infor

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[1] Section 73

[2] Government of Zimbabwe,2020. National Development Strategy 1- January 2021-December 2025:  Towards a Prosperous and Empowered Upper Middle Class Income Society by 2030

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