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Visit to Uruguay

From 24 to 28 April, the Special Rapporteur conducted a country visit to Uruguay, where he met with government officials and members of civil society to address the progress and challenges Uruguay faces with human rights related to environmental protection.  He issued a statement at the close of his visit, which praised Uruguay’s steps to move towards almost-complete reliance on renewable energy.  He suggested more public participation in environmental decision-making and the creation of a new “environmental ombudsperson” position that could serve as a focus for environmental complaints.  He will present a report on Uruguay to the Human Rights Council in March 2018.  

Newsletter no. 22

On March 24, the Special Rapporteur issued his most recent newsletter describing recent activities relating to the mandate, including his report on biodiversity, his presentation to the Human Rights Council, and his upcoming visit to Uruguay.

U.N. Expert: Biodiversity Is Essential To Human Rights

An article in the World Post describes the report of the Special Rapporteur on biodiversity and human rights, which he presented to the Human Rights Council earlier this month.  In the article, Professor Knox is quoted as saying:  “Biodiversity is really necessary for the full enjoyment of rights to food, water, health — the right to live a full and happy life.  Without the services that healthy ecosystems provide across the board, we really can’t enjoy a whole range of human rights. And healthy ecosystems really depend on biodiversity.”

Knox Statement to Human Rights Council

On Wednesday, March 8, the Special Rapporteur formally presented his report on biodiversity and human rights to the Human Rights Council.  Here is his written statement to the Council.  The full report is available here, in all six official languages of the United Nations.  The UN web TV of the presentation and the interactive dialogue with the Council is available here.

New website for environmental defenders

On March 6, Universal Rights Group and several other partners, including the Special Rapporteur, announced the launch of a new web portal with information and links for environmental human rights defenders – that is, those who defend the environment and the human rights that depend on it.  As Global Witness has described, they are increasingly under threat — at least 185 were killed in 2015 alone.

Called, the new site describes the rights of environmental defenders, includes links to sites of international organizations and others who can help them, and provides a great deal of other relevant information.  The organizers plan to continue to add to the site in the future, and to translate it into other languages, including Spanish and French.

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, March 8.  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.