UN Mandate

In March 2012, in Resolution 19/10, the Human Rights Council created a new three-year mandate on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and suitable environment.   The Council decided to appoint an Independent Expert, and requested the Expert, among other things:

(a) To study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; and

(b) To identify, promote and exchange views on best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations and commitments to inform, support and strengthen environmental policymaking, especially in the area of environmental protection, and, in that regard, to prepare a compendium of best practices.

In July 2012, the President of the Human Rights Council appointed Professor John H. Knox, of Wake Forest University School of Law, to be the first Independent Expert, beginning in August 2012.

In March 2015, in Resolution 28/11, the Human Rights Council mandated that the Independent Expert become a Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment for a period of three years, and requested the Special Rapporteur:

(a) To continue to study, in consultation with Governments, relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme, and relevant multilateral environment agreements, human rights mechanisms, local authorities, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, including those representing indigenous peoples and other persons in vulnerable situations, the private sector and academic institutions, the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;

(b) To continue to identify, promote and exchange views on good practices relating to human rights obligations and commitments that inform, support and strengthen environmental policymaking, especially in the area of environmental protection, and in that regard to update and disseminate the compendium of good practices;

(c) To promote and report on the realization of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and to disseminate his or her findings by, inter alia, continuing to give particular emphasis to practical solutions with regard to their implementation;

(d) To work on identifying challenges and obstacles to the full realization of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and protection gaps thereto, including in the context of sustainable development;

(e) To continue to contribute to and participate in, where appropriate, intergovernmental conferences and meetings relevant to the mandate;

(f) To develop a dialogue, liaise and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders with a view to enhancing public awareness of the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment;

(g) To apply a gender perspective by, inter alia, considering the particular situation of women and girls and identifying gender-specific discrimination and vulnerabilities;

(h) To work in close coordination, while avoiding unnecessary duplication, with other special procedures and subsidiary organs of the Human Rights Council, relevant United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme, the treaty bodies and international and regional organizations, multilateral environmental agreements, taking into account the views of other stakeholders, including relevant regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions;

(i) To submit an annual report, including conclusions and recommendations, to the Council;

The Special Rapporteur, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner, will also:

(a) Convene, prior to the thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council, an expert seminar on the effective implementation of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, challenges thereto and the way forward, on the basis of the findings of the mandate holder;

(b) Invite States and other relevant stakeholders, including academic experts and civil society organizations, to participate actively in the seminar;

(c) Invite relevant experts of the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, and other international organizations to participate in the seminar;

(d) Submit to the Human Rights Council, at its thirty-first session, a summary report on the above-mentioned seminar, including any recommendations stemming therefrom, for consideration of further follow-up action.