Global Judicial Institute for the Environment

On May 20-21, I had the honor to participate in the second meeting of the Global Judicial Institute for the Environment, a new organization of judges from around the world who are coordinating efforts to share information and experiences on environmental issues.  More information about the creation of the Institute is available here.  On May 19, I also had the pleasure of speaking at the University of São Paulo School of Law on a panel addressing issues of human rights and the environment internationally and in Brazil.

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.

UN rights experts condemn Viet Nam for incommunicado detention of blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’

John Knox joined Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on freedom of association, David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on toxic substances, in issuing a joint statement urging the Government of Viet Nam to immediately release a popular blogger known as Mother Mushroom, […] Continue reading »

Special Rapporteurs call for new treaty on pesticides

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on toxic substances, Baskut Tuncak, called attention to the dangers of pesticides to human health and the environment, and called for a new international treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides, in a report to the Human Rights Council.  They pointed to research showing that pesticides cause an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The vast majority of these deaths occur in developing countries.

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 environment-rights.org, 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.

Statement by Vicki Tauli-Corpuz on her visit to the United States

On March 3, at the end of her two-week visit to the United States, Vicki Tauli-Corpuz, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, issued a statement that, among other things, criticized the United States for authorizing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline without an adequate assessment or meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes in the area.  She will issue a full report with recommendations.

States must fulfil human rights obligations in protecting biodiversity

On March 1, ahead of World Wildlife Day on March 3, the Special Rapporteur urged governments to fulfil their human rights obligations to protect the world’s irreplaceable plants and animals.  He stated:  “The rapid loss of biological diversity around the world should be setting off alarm bells.  We are well on our way to the sixth global extinction of species in the history of the planet, and States are still failing to halt the main drivers of biodiversity loss, including habitat destruction, poaching and climate change. What is less well understood is that the loss of biodiversity undermines the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food and water.”  For the full text of the statement, click here.