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Report on biodiversity and human rights

The report of the Special Rapporteur on biodiversity and human rights is now available. He will present it to the Human Rights Council at its next session, during an interactive dialogue on Tuesday, 7 March.  The report explains that the full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food and water, depends on the […] Continue reading »

Joint statement on crackdown on Acción Ecológica

The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, together with the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of assembly and association, on freedom of opinion and expression, on the situation of human rights defenders, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, issued a statement criticizing the Government of Ecuador for ordering the closure of Acción Ecológica’, an NGO that supports environmental and indigenous rights. We urged the Ecuadorian authorities to reverse the decision and reform the legislation it is using to dissolve the groups, which it has used in the past for dissolving groups such as ‘Pachamama’ and the ‘Unión Nacional de Educadores’.

Statement on Standing Rock protesters

Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, issued a statement criticizing U.S. security forces for using excessive force against the protesters from the Standing Rock Sioux and many other indigenous peoples, as well as other sympathizers, who are opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The Special Rapporteur emphasized that: “The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few.  The use of violence by some protesters should not be used as a justification to nullify the peaceful assembly rights of everyone else.”

Statement on the conclusion of mission to Madagascar

The Special Rapporteur issued this statement (ici en francais) on the conclusion of his mission to Madagascar, during which he met with government ministers and officials, civil society organizations, academics, agencies of the United Nations, and the newly established National Human Rights Commission. It addresses a number of issues raised during the visit, including the effects of climate change, the importance of protecting environmental human rights defenders, illegal trafficking in rosewood and other endangered species, mining conflicts, and community-centered conservation of Madagascar’s unique and beautiful ecosystems. A report on the visit will be released in March 2017.

Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the United States, joined by many other indigenous peoples and others, have been opposing and peacefully protesting the construction of a crude oil pipeline because of concerns that it could adversely affect their drinking water. In September, Vicki Tauli-Corpuz, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, issued a statement — endorsed by John Knox and other special rapporteurs — calling on the United States to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, consult with the affected communities in good faith, and ensure their free and informed consent prior to the approval of the project.

Report on environmental human rights defenders

Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, has published a report to the General Assembly dedicated, in his words, “to the heroic activists who have braved the dangers facing them and defended the rights of their communities to a safe and healthy environment.” The report describes the epidemic of violence and harassment against environmental defenders around the world, and sets out recommendations for empowering and protecting them.

“Protecting those who work to defend the environment is a human rights issue”

In this op-ed for the Guardian, published on World Environment Day 2016, Special Rapporteurs John Knox, Michel Forst, and Victoria Tauli Corpuz write that “The enjoyment of a vast range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food, water, and housing, depend on a healthy and sustainable environment. Today, on World Environment Day, let us remember that those who work to protect the environment are not only environmentalists – they are human rights defenders. And they are increasingly at risk.”  The Rapporteurs call on governments and businesses to do more to protect environmental human rights defenders and to hold accountable those who threaten, harass, and murder them.

May 2016 newsletter

The Special Rapporteur issued his eighteenth newsletter on May 23.  It emphasizes the importance of including environmental and social safeguards in the climate finance mechanism being negotiated the following week in Bonn.  It also describes the trip by Professor Knox in April to South Africa, where he participated in a conference on “New Frontiers in Global Environmental Constitutionalism” at North-West University, and a judicial workshop on applying human and constitutional rights to environmental issues, which was held at the University of Pretoria.

“Healthy Environment, Healthy People”

Today, the UN Environment Programme released a report entitled “Healthy Environment, Healthy People,” for the annual meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).  The report describes that environmental harm causes almost a quarter of all deaths, up to 234 times as many premature deaths every year as result from conflicts.  In addition, environmental effects are responsible for more than 25% of the deaths of children under the age of 5.  UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “By depleting the ecological infrastructure of our planet and increasing our pollution footprint, we incur an ever-growing cost in terms of human health and well-being. From air pollution and chemical exposure to the mining of our natural resource base, we have compromised our life support systems.”

“This is no time for complacency”

Today, Special Rapporteur Knox issued a press statement stating that “The first test of States’ commitment to the principles of the Paris Agreement will be next week,” when government representatives meet in Bonn to negotiate the terms of a new international climate mechanism to transfer funds from developed to developing countries for projects that contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development.  “This is no time for complacency,” he said. “The fact that 177 States have signed the Paris Agreement in less than a month is very welcome news, but the hard work of safeguarding the environment and human rights is just now beginning.”