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.
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.
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.”
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.”
In the attached letter, Special Rapporteur John Knox urges the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to ensure that a new climate financing mechanism accords with international human rights obligations, by incorporating strong social and environmental safeguards. The paper describes those obligations and explains how they may be translated into safeguards in the new mechanism, using illustrative examples from the safeguards adopted by the Adaptation Fund.
The seventeenth newsletter is now available. It provides links to the reports presented by the Special Rapporteur on March 3 to the Human Rights Council, as well as links to the video of the presentation and the interactive dialogue with the Council. It also describes his recent and upcoming activities.
On March 10, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Professor John Knox, joined the statement of Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, calling on the Government of Honduras to ensure the safety and protection of Gustavo Castro Soto, Mexican defender, who was hurt during the assassination […]
Here is my written presentation to the Human Rights Council, delivered on March 3. It summarizes the reports on climate change and human rights, and on implementation of human rights relating to the environment. It also describes my current and planned activities.
My presentation to the Human Rights Council is available here, on UN web TV. The video includes not only my presentation, but also that of the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, and the interactive dialogue with the Council members and observers.