The Universal Rights Group issued a report entitled Human Rights, Climate Change and Cross-Border Displacement: The Role of the International Human Rights Community in Contributing to Effective and Just Solutions. The report focuses on how damage to the environment negatively impacts human rights, particularly the rights of individuals who are already in vulnerable situations. The report states that climate-change-induced disasters may cause many people to be displaced across international borders, and it presses the international community to take more concrete steps to place human rights concerns at the center of climate change discussions.
The Reporting Framework for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights has announced an updated website, which provides easy access to key concepts, implementation guidance, and additional resources. The new website also allows users to explore the relationship between the UNGP Reporting Framework and other reporting initiatives, news, and analysis regarding human rights reporting.
The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights issued a press release today highlighting the importance of a corporate role in sustainable development, and calling for more transparency and accountability regarding corporations’ involvement in human rights risks.
On July 14, 2015, Special Rapporteur John Knox published a short article for openDemocracy.net about the interdependence of human rights and environmental protection. The article explains that individuals can only fully enjoy their human rights, including their rights to health and life, if they live in a healthy natural environment, and that the exercise of human rights, such as rights to information and participation, facilitates environmental protection.
Joni Pegram at UNICEF has published a blog post arguing that leaders involved in international climate talks did not focus enough on climate change’s role in eroding human rights, particularly the rights of children. She states, for example, that in addition to slowing economic growth and increasing poverty, climate change has been linked by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi to child trafficking and slavery, because the loss of livelihoods and increased migration resulting from natural disasters and changing weather patterns leave children increasingly exposed to these dangers. She urges the United Kingdom and other countries to sign the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action.
A district court in the Hague has decided a suit brought by the Urgenda Foundation against the State of the Netherlands. On the basis of human rights norms as well as other laws, the court ordered the Dutch government to lower carbon emissions by 25% of 1990 levels by 2020, far beyond the commitment of the government to lower emissions 17% by that date. This decision is the first in the world to order the reduction of carbon emissions based on general principles of law, in the absence of a specific statutory mandate to do so.
The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights has issued a press release urging G7 leaders to act upon their stated commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In particular, the Working Group encourages the leaders to act upon their promise to promote labor rights, acceptable working conditions, and environmental protection in supply chains.
Together with 26 other UN special rapporteurs and independent experts, John Knox joined in a statement released today again drawing attention to the harm climate change poses to the enjoyment of human rights, and urging States to commit in the 2015 climate agreement to respect and protect human rights in their responses to climate change. For the full text of the statement, click here.
The 14th newsletter, released today, describes the current activities of the Special Rapporteur, as well as other events related to the mandate. Next week, the Rapporteur will be in Bonn at the climate talks there, then at Geneva for the annual meeting of the UN special mandate holders.
On May 20, Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, issued a statement urging the World Health Organization to play a more active role in preventing adverse health effects from pollution. He stated that only a “tiny fraction” of WHO’s proposed budget is for environmental health, even though environmental harm, including air and water pollution, cause approximately 13 million deaths per year and about one quarter of global burden of disease. Pollution is the leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries and poor women and children who live and work in the world’s most polluted environments are most affected. Even worse, the UN Environment Programme predicts a sharp acceleration of pollution around the world in coming years.
On May 20, the World Resources Institute announced the launch of its new Environmental Democracy Index. In the words of WRI, “The index offers new insights into the state of environmental democracy around the world and opportunities to use the tool to support reform. EDI is the first index to measure how well countries’ national laws protect environmental democracy rights, namely: the right of the public to freely access relevant and timely information, to provide public input and scrutiny in decision-making, and to seek justice before an independent and fair legal authority in cases of environmental harm or violation of rights.” As followers of this website know, these three access rights have strong roots in human rights law. The index allows users to see whether and how those rights are reflected in domestic laws of countries around the world.
On May 4, Special Rapporteur John Knox was interviewed by UN radio on the effects of incremental increases in global temperature on the enjoyment of human rights. He described the report recently presented by the Climate Vulnerable Forum to the climate negotiators, which draws on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other UN special rapporteurs to explain how even a two-degree rise in temperature will adversely affect the full enjoyment of human rights.
On May 1, John Knox joined with other UN special rapporteurs to publish a report on the effects of a two degree increase in average global temperature on the enjoyment of human rights. The report explains how even a two degree rise in temperature will have grave effects on a wide array of human rights, […]
On April 22, Earth Day, Global Witness released its most recent report on the killings of environmental defenders. It found that at least 116 environmental activists were killed in 2014 – more than two a week. The report draws particular attention to Honduras, which has had 101 deaths between 2010 and 2014, making it “the most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental activist for the last five years.”
Because my title has changed from Independent Expert to Special Rapporteur, this website address has also changed, from ieenvironment.org to srenvironment.org. And my email address has changed as well, from [email protected] to [email protected] Searching for ienvironment.org should take you to srenvironment.org, but unfortunately the [email protected] email address will no longer work or forward emails after 1 May 2015.
The March 2015 report to the Human Rights Council gives an overview of more than 100 good practices in the use of human rights obligations relating to environmental protection. A detailed description of each practice, along with links to sites with more information about them, is available at the UN website for the mandate.
Every year, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors "grassroots environmental heroes" from the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America. This year, the Prize was awarded to Marilyn Baptiste of Canada, Berta Caceres of Honduras, Phyllis Omido of Kenya, Jean Wiener from Haiti, Howard Wood of Scotland, and Myint Zaw from Myanmar.
The April 2015 newsletter describes the most recent activities relating to the mandate, including the decision by the Human Rights Council to extend the mandate for three more years, and to change the name from “Independent Expert” to “Special Rapporteur.” Click on the link to read the 13th newsletter.
The report of the fourth meeting of the focal points appointed by the Governments of the signatory countries of the declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which met 4-6 November 2014 in Santiago, is now available. This is the meeting at which the countries decided to pursue a regional agreement on the Principle 10 rights of access to information, participation, and remedy. To read the report, click here.
On March 30, a group of eminent legal scholars published the Oslo Principles, a set of norms requiring governments and enterprises to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Independent Expert visited France from 20 to 24 October 2014. During the visit, he examined how the country was implementing human rights related to environmental protection, identified good practices and lessons learned, and considered the challenges the country faces in the implementation of environmentally related human rights. This report gives his findings and recommendations. It is available in English and in French.
On March 9, John Knox presented his report on good practices to the Human Rights Council. To read his statement to the Council, click here.
On March 9, the Independent Expert will present his annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report describes more than one hundred good practices of Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, corporations and others in the use of human rights obligations relating to the environment.
The twelfth newsletter on the work of the Independent Expert is now available. The newsletter describes Professor Knox’s third annual report, which focuses on good practices in the use of human rights obligations relating to the environment. He will present the report to the Human Rights Council on Monday, March 9.
The third annual report of the Independent Expert describes good practices of Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, corporations and others in the use of human rights obligations relating to the environment, including (a) procedural obligations to make environmental information public, to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, to protect rights of expression and association, and to provide access to legal remedies; (b) substantive obligations, including obligations relating to non-State actors; (c) obligations relating to transboundary harm; and (d) obligations relating to those in vulnerable situations. To access the report, click here.
UN Experts Appeal for International Help to Investigate Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights Defender
On December 23, a group of special rapporteurs called for international support to investigate the enforced disappearance of a human rights defender, Sombath Somphone, in Laos two years ago. (more…)
The UN Special Procedure Mandate Holders issued a joint statement on climate change on Human Rights Day, December 10th, which urges States to integrate human rights in the climate negotiations aimed at adopting a new climate agreement in Paris in December 2015. (more…)
Earlier this year, the Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, the UN Environment Programme, and the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa held an expert consultation in Johannesburg, focusing on experiences with environmental rights contained in national constitutions. The report on the consultation, which includes descriptions of specific good practices identified by the experts, is available here.
Latin American and Caribbean countries launch negotiation of a regional agreement on access to information, participation and justice
On November 6, representatives from 19 Latin American and Caribbean countries decided to launch a regional agreement to implement Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which promotes access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters.
The new UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics, Baskut Tuncak, urged Governments around the world to expedite the ratification process of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from its adverse effects.
UN Independent Expert John Knox visited France from 20 to 24 October 2014. At the end of his visit he shared his preliminary findings and conclusions, and discussed the relationship between climate change and human rights.
New Climate Change Agreement Must Include Human Rights Protections – Special Procedures Mandate-Holders Open Letter
An Open Letter from Special Procedures mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council calls on State Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to ensure full coherence between their human rights obligations and their efforts to address climate change. (more…)
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and Special Rapporteur on right to safe drinking water and sanitation visit Detroit, MI
The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation visited Detroit from 18 to 20 October 2014 to learn about the impact of water disconnections on the living conditions of locals and on their human rights to water, sanitation and housing. (more…)
Independent Expert John Knox will make an official visit to France on 20-24 October 2014 to evaluate how the country is implementing human rights relating to environmental protection and to identify good practices. (more…)
Although these posts are usually limited to events closely related to the UN mandate, I wanted to take a moment to recognize my brother, Andrew Knox, who has worked to make his house in Washington the first one, to my knowledge, that has zero net carbon emissions! For a description of how he did it, please click on the link: http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2014/10/09/the-one-two-punch-for-net-zero-in-dc-home-power-and-carbon-neutral/
IBA Releases Comprehensive Report: “Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption”
The International Bar Association has released a comprehensive report entitled “Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption.”
The Independent Expert issued a new mapping report on human rights and climate change, which presents all climate change specific references from his other mapping reports in a concise, easily navigable format. (more…)
The third UNITAR/Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy will be held on Sept. 5-7, with a focus on Human Rights, Environmental Sustainability, Post-2015 Development, and the Future Climate Regime. The conference will bring together more than 150 scholars and policy experts, and cover more than 100 papers by researchers and practitioners from 40 different countries. For those interested in attending, the deadline for registration is 14 August 2014. More information is available at http://www.unitar.org/egp/3rd-unitar-yale-conference-environmental-governance-and-democracy.
Together with OHCHR and UNEP, the Independent Expert convened a regional expert meeting in May to discuss the relationship between human rights obligations and environmental protection, with a focus on environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) in Asia and the Pacific.
The eighth newsletter on the work of the Independent Expert is now available. It describes the recent activities of the Independent Expert, including identifying best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations to strengthen environmental policy making.
The Access Initiative (TAI) and the World Resources Institute have announced a new metric for environmental rights, which they will launch later this year. According to TAI, “The Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) will be the first comprehensive index designed specifically to measure procedural rights in an environmental context.”
Mary Robinson of Ireland has been appointed as the Special Envoy for Climate Change by the Secretary General of the United Nations. The appointment was made prior to the 2014 Climate Summit hosted by the Secretary General in New York on 23 September 2014. (more…)
A recent article in Ensia draws further attention to the increasing violence against environmental human rights defenders. The article, entitled “Dying to Save the World,” highlights the struggles activists face while defending the environment, and raises awareness about the rise in documented murders of local environmental activists across the globe.
While at Vermont Law School this summer as its international environmental scholar in residence, John Knox presented an overview of his work for the mandate so far. A video of his lecture is available here.
On June 23, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on human rights and climate change. Among other things, the resolution requests that Human Rights Council mandate holders give special consideration to human rights and climate change within the context of their individual mandates.
The United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, John Knox, encourages States to fulfill their human rights obligations relating to environmental protection. On World Environment Day, Mr. Knox also urges governments worldwide to protect those who defend the environment necessary for our enjoyment of human rights. (more…)
Global Witness has published a highly important report on the threats faced by environmental human rights defenders – those who peacefully advocate for the protection of human rights to the environment and land. The non-profit organization found 908 documented murders of environmental and land defenders from 2002 through 2013, an average of one every week.
The Independent Expert visited Costa Rica from 28 July to 1 August 2013. During the visit, Professor Knox looked at how Costa Rica was implementing human rights related to the environment, identified good practices, and examined the challenges related to human rights and the environment. Read the full report here.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a new report that provides a comprehensive, detailed compendium of materials and cases on human rights and the environment. (more…)
On March 11, the Independent Expert spoke at a Side Event on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations in Geneva. He addressed human rights abuses and environmental harm caused by transnational corporations, and the relevant international legal framework.
Read the entire statement here: Transnational Corporations and Environmental Harm Side Event
On March 11, the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox, made a statement to the Human Rights Council presenting his mapping report and the report on his visit to Costa Rica, and also described his plans for the upcoming year of the mandate.
Read the entire statement here: Human Rights Obligations to Protect the Environment.
On March 11, the Independent Expert will present his annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report maps human rights obligations relating to the environment, on the basis of an extensive review of global and regional sources. The Independent Expert describes procedural obligations of States to assess environmental impacts on human rights and to make environmental information public, to facilitate participation in environmental decision-making, and to provide access to remedies for environmental harm. He describes States’ substantive obligations to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against environmental harm that interferes with the enjoyment of human rights, including harm caused by private actors. Finally, he outlines obligations relating to the protection of members of groups in vulnerable situations, including women, children and indigenous peoples.
Over the last year, the Independent Expert has overseen a research project to map the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The conclusions of the project are presented in the report to the Human Rights Council presented on 10 March 2014. The details of the research are contained in a series of 14 reports, each of which describes the relevant statements of a particular source or set of sources, including UN human rights treaty bodies, other UN bodies and mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council and its special rapporteurs, regional human rights systems, and international environmental instruments. To see those reports, click on the link.
Yale University, together with UNITAR and other partners, is holding a conference September 5-7 on the relationship of human rights and environmental sustainability. The Call for Abstracts is at the link. Note that the deadline for abstracts is April 1!