Environmental rights in Ethiopia: Shifting from theory to practical realization
Influenced by developments in the international environmental rights law, most African countries now incorporate in their Constitutions or other major legal documents environmental rights for their citizens. The 1995 Federal Constitution of Ethiopia, its environmental policy, and all subsequent legislation also incorporate environmental rights that are in the major international environmental law conventions. These rights include the right to a clean and healthy environment, the right to access justice, as well as the right to information and public participation. However, the environmental rights that are included in the country’s Constitution, policies and laws are simply rhetorical. For example, in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital, residents suffer from such horrendous odour oozing out of the putrefaction of the environment. Consequently, children and even adults are affected by various diseases such as respiratory and skin infections. Some residents even abandon their homes, not being able to resist the pollution of their environment. The government’s lack of human resource capacity and appropriate technology to promote a healthy and safe environment; its preference of economic growth over environmental protection; environmental corruption; and poor responsiveness of the public, the policy makers, the executive, as well as the judicial organs such as the police and the court to environmental rights, are among the major causes of poor implementation. The article examines how environmental rights could be given due attention as an extension of basic human rights and as a tool for sustainable economic development.
Keywords: Environmental rights, theory, practice, factors for poor enforcement, Ethiopia.