Over-exploitation of natural resources harms the health and wellness of ecosystems and also the wellbeing the people. In the face of ecological crises and growing inequality, we must act, including emerging extended producer responsibility and supply chain legislation, guaranteeing eco-friendly public procurement, supporting technical innovation to enhance resource circularity, and also adopting decision-making processes that include and also respect women, indigenous Peoples, and also local communities. (Download PDF) (See every the Still just One planet policy briefs)
ByJennifer Bansard, Mika SchroderonApril 15, 2021
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Natural resources are central to human wellbeing. We cannot live there is no the clean air us breathe, the plants we eat, or the water we drink. We need organic resources to placed roofs end our heads and also heat our homes. We require them to survive and to thrive.

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The ide of natural resources describes naturally occurring living and also non-living elements of the earth system, consisting of plants, fish, and fungi, but also water, soil, and minerals. A prominent way to think about natural resources is come look at them in regards to depletion risk: execute they regenerate, and, if so, at what pace? part resources, such as trees and also plants, room renewable due to the fact that they regenerate fairly quickly. Others, such as copper and also oil, take much longer to type and are considered non-renewable. Together, natural resources comprise a dense web the interdependence, developing ecosystems that also include humans. Together such, the circulation of sources shapes the confront of our planet and also the neighborhood distinctiveness of ours environments. People have created different types of cultural, spiritual, and also subsistence-based relationships v the organic environment, adopting value-systems the go beyond economic framings.

Nature makes human being development feasible but our relentless need for the earth’s sources is speeding up extinction rates and also devastating the world’s ecosystems.


Joyce Msuya, Deputy executive Director, unified Nations setting Programme

The use of herbal resources has long been considered an aspect of both human rights and economic development, leading the joined Nations, amid its occupational on progressing decolonization in the 1960s, come declare the “he appropriate of peoples and nations to long-term sovereignty over their herbal wealth and resources have to be worked out in the interest of your national advancement and the the health of the civilization of the State concerned” (UN general Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII)).

Natural sources are frequently viewed as crucial assets driving advancement and riches creation. End time and with steady industrialization, resource use increased. In some cases, exploitation levels involved exceed resources’ herbal regeneration rates. Such overexploitation ultimately threatens the livelihoods and wellbeing of civilization who count on these resources, and also jeopardizes the wellness of ecosystems. This risk of resource depletion, significantly manifesting in the type of fishery collapses, displayed the need to regulate natural resource use to far better preserve resources and also their ecosystems. The very an initial UN conference on environmental issues, the 1972 UN Conference on the Human atmosphere held in Stockholm, Sweden, adopted fundamental principles in this regard.

Stockholm Declaration

Principle 2: “The natural resources that the earth, consisting of the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of organic ecosystems, must be safeguarded because that the advantage of present and also future generations through mindful planning or management, together appropriate.”Principle 3: “The volume of the planet to produce vital renewable resources have to be preserved and, wherever practicable, revitalized or improved.”Principle 5: “The non-renewable resources of the planet must it is in employed in together a method as to guard against the risk of your future exhaustion and also to ensure that benefits from such employment are shared by all mankind.”

The Stockholm explanation not only addressed resource depletion, but also benefit sharing: the objective to ensure the natural source use not just benefits the few, however the many, both in ~ and throughout countries. It likewise speaks come the principle of inter-generational equity: ensuring that today’s resource use walk not compromise the accessibility of natural resources for future generations. In fact, natural resource use relates to all three dimensions of sustainability: society justice, environmental health, and economic development. The sustainable usage of natural resources strives for balance between these dimensions: preserving the permanent use of sources while maximizing social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts.


Natural source Use Has much more than Tripled due to the fact that 1970

Although the 1972 Stockholm declaration laid the end the an essential principles because that sustainable resource governance, the state of play fifty percent a century later is sobering. The International source Panel (IRP), introduced by the joined Nations environment Programme (UNEP), discovered that the worldwide average that material need per capita grew from 7.4 lots in 1970 come 12.2 tons in 2017, with far-reaching adverse results on the environment, notably boosted greenhouse gas emissions.

The IRP also showed the “the usage of natural resources and also the related benefits and environmental impacts are unevenly distributed throughout countries and also regions” (IRP, 2019, p. 27). For one, the every capita product footprint in high-income countries is thirteen times much more than in low-income countries: 27 tons and also 2 tons per capita, respectively. As WWF notes, “If anyone lived choose an mean resident that the USA, a total of four Earths would certainly be compelled to regenerate humanity’s yearly demand top top nature.” those more, due to the fact that they usually rely on resource extraction in other countries, high income nations outsource component of the environmental and also social effects of their consumption. At the same time, the IRP has actually reported the “the value produced through these traded products in the countries of origin is reasonably low” (IRP, 2019, p. 65). This imbalance highlights the an international discrepancies in the circulation of benefits and an unfavorable impacts stemming from resource use, with countries “rich” in an useful resources not constantly benefitting from your extraction, distribution, and use, yet suffering the most environmental harm.

Human plot threaten much more species with worldwide extinction currently than ever before before.


Intergovernmental Science-Policy communication on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services 2019 global Assessment Report top top Biodiversity and also Ecosystem Services

Fostering Sustainable source Governance

A large array of norms, institutions, and actors affect decisions on herbal resources, i m sorry is why us speak that natural source governance. A plethora of nationwide legislation, intergovernmental agreements, regional organizations, certification mechanisms, corporate password of conduct, and multi-stakeholder partnerships produce a complicated web of rules affecting how natural resources room used and also benefits thereof room distributed.


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Source: UNEP and IRP (2020). Sustainable profession in Resources: an international Material Flows, Circularity and also Trade. United Nations setting Programme.Since Stockholm, countless multilateral agreements have emerged a range of operational guidelines, targets, and also standards. Part intergovernmental frameworks, such as the Convention on biological Diversity (CBD) are vast in focus, when others space resource-specific (Minamata Convention ~ above Mercury) or relate to a specific geographical area (Convention ~ above the conservation of Antarctic naval Living Resources). Market initiatives and multi-stakeholder tandem often emphasis on certain resources or sectors. Instances of together initiatives encompass the forest Stewardship Council, the Roundtable ~ above Sustainable Palm Oil, the Extractive sectors Transparency Initiative, and also the much better Cotton Initiative.

Citizens additionally have firm over natural resource use: with the to represent we elect to government, ours activist engagement, and also our consumption and also transport choices. For instance, carefully considering food production cycles—what we eat, where and how the is grown, and also how it come on ours plate—can go towards addressing the influence that farming expansion has actually on forests, wetlands, and also grassland ecosystems (FAO, 2018; IPBES, 2019). However, this requirements to it is in coupled with systemic change across governance structures.

These mechanisms and also institutions space not always complementary; in fact, at time they was standing in dispute with one another. Consider, because that instance, an energy corporation invoking the power Charter treaty to record arbitration claims against a country’s decision come phase-out coal—a decision bring away in accordance v its duties under the Paris covenant on Climate Change.


Balancing Rights and also Interests over natural Resources

Determining how people can—and should— access, advantage from, get involved in decision-making on, and also have duty over natural resources has actually been shame by principles such together property and rights

On the one hand, home rights division lands and also territories into: personal property, where civil liberties are held by individuals or companies; typical property, where legal rights are common by a community; windy property, where legal rights are held by government; and also open access areas, where no specific rights are assigned (Aggrawal & Elbow, 2006). Building rights are carefully tied to rights over organic resources, which incorporate the best to usage a resource, together as searching in a forest; or monitoring rights that give authority to decide on use, for instance imposing seasonal searching restrictions. In terms of governance, different varieties of property and access rights have the right to be held simultaneously by numerous actors: a wetland have the right to be own by the state, controlled by a regional council, and also used as fishing grounds through communities. 

The id of tenure security shows that one individual’s legal rights over natural resources and details lands space recognized and also enforceable. These rights are crucial to staying clear of conflict and fostering society security and long-term sustainable resource use.

On the various other hand, there are individual and collective rights concerning quality of life. The United nations Declaration ~ above the rights of Peasants and also Other people Working in Rural areas (UNDROP), because that example, stipulates that “

easants and also other civilization working in rural areas have the right to have access to and to use in a sustainable way the organic resources present in their areas that are forced to enjoy adequate living conditions” and that lock “have the ideal to participate in the administration of these resources” (Article 5). UNDROP highlights the prominence of small-scale sustainable practices, and the should strengthen the protection and recognition of groups who have experienced historical marginalization and violent dispute over resource use. 

Similarly, the UN declaration on the civil liberties of aboriginal Peoples (UNDRIP) and International labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169 (ILO 169) protect the individual and collective rights of native Peoples. UNDRIP post 8(2b) stipulates that claims shall prevent and provide redress because that “any action which has actually the aim or result of dispossessing castle of their lands, territories or resources.” Both texts likewise speak to the importance of ensuring the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of aboriginal Peoples in relationship to the use of their lands, v UNDRIP posts 11(2) and 28 underscoring native Peoples’ appropriate to redress for past FPIC infringements.

There is additionally the ideal to a healthy and balanced environment, anchored in regional treaties, including procedural legal rights on access to information and also decision-making processes, and also the ideal to clean air, a safe climate, healthy and balanced food, for sure water, a safe environment for work and play, and also healthy ecosystems (UN person Rights Council, 2019). Ultimately, the efficiency of these advances in global law depends upon nationwide governments’ readiness to implement them. Come date, only 23 countries have validated ILO 169, and many countries approximately the human being have yet to adopt appropriate regulation to defend the rights enshrined in UNDRIP. To perform so, and also to protect associated rights under UNDROP and the right to a healthy environment, federal governments must take on robust reforms throughout national policies, laws, programmes, and also institutions the prompt shifts in nation priorities and also ensure the mainstreaming of environmental and social concerns throughout sectors, focusing particularly on empowering marginalized groups. Come ensure that decisions across society better address ecological and social wellbeing, influential actors, including the UN unique Rapporteur on human being Rights and the Environment, space calling for person rights-based ideologies to natural source governance.

Overall, this constitutes a facility architecture, one that is dynamic in nature, frequently builds top top customary practices, and requires balancing “competing” rights and also interests through law and policy. Structures are seldom straightforward: there are regularly overlapping or even conflicting equipment in place, and this influences the sustainability of source governance.

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States pat a central role in balancing rights and interests. Regulation addressing the extractive sector determine just how a corporation’s exclusive user civil liberties may influence the general population’s appropriate to a safe and also healthy environment. Approaches to this balancing act, and also the distribution, recognition, and safeguarding that rights, and the implementation of associated responsibilities, vary throughout states and change over time.

At times, this balance of interests favors an ext powerful actors. Stemming from historic legacies and also trajectories in decision-making, structure inequalities exist across resource access, ownership, and also tenure security (Oxfam, 2014). These concerns disproportionately affect women, countryside communities, and also Indigenous Peoples, who room often cast as passive recipients to plan change, as opposed to legal rights holders and crucial actors in the sustainable management of natural resources. 

Women have confronted historical exclusion from decision-making processes related come land and also resources (UN Women, 2020). Because of enduring patriarchal sex norms across the world, they hold less manage than guys over the lands and resources they traditionally use and rely on for their livelihoods and also wellbeing. Based upon an evaluation of 180 countries, the organisation for economic Co-operation and development (OECD) discovered that the end of the 164 nations that clearly recognize women’s legal rights to own, use, and make decisions about land ~ above par with men, just 52 countries guarantee these legal rights in both law and practice (OECD, 2019). Together such, it is essential that states ensure that women’s legal rights over herbal resources space realized and also protected through suitable mechanisms.