No government has recognised access to nature as a right, yet it can and does deliver benefits to everyone in society. The Scottish Government is consulting on a rights of children and young people bill, to establish within law the responsibility of Scottish ministers to have "due regard" to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.The Convention – signed by every member of the UN except Somalia and the US – outlines children's fundamental rights such as the right to an identity, the right to life and development, and the right to be heard.
All forty-three rights recognised by the Convention are important, and some clearly more fundamental than others; a number of countries struggle to ensure that even some of the more basic rights are recognised and some actively obstruct them. The terrible deprivations suffered by people across the world should not blind us to the social and health inequalities that remain in our own country.
When people talk of human rights in the context of nature conservation, they often mean protecting the rights of people in the non-industrial world to make use of the obvious things nature provides, such as firewood, food and traditional remedies. But ready access to nature, including in affluent nations like the UK, can and does make people's lives better. Think about it: the second thing people tend to buy once they can afford it is a nicer, greener place to live; the first is usually a car.
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