Professor Knox recently provided a report of his activities in his role as U.N. Independent Expert, which I have re-posted here. Also included is Professor Knox's third annual report to the Human Rights Council, the summary with links also follows.
The focus of this report is on good practices (Compilation of good practices (A/HRC/28/61) available for the moment only in English). Professor Knox paints with a broad brush, seeking to develop a discussion, perhaps interlinked, among both public and private actors respecting human rights and environmental policy-making. From out of a series of consultations, he has identified more than 100 of these good practices. These are organized into nine categories: (a) procedural obligations generally; (b) the obligation to make environmental information public; (c) the obligation to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making; (d) the obligation to protect the rights of expression and association; (e) the obligation to provide access to legal remedies; (f) substantive obligations; (g) obligations relating to non-State actors; (h) obligations relating to transboundary harm; and (i) obligations relating to those in vulnerable situations.
We look forward to seeing how this raw material may be molded, and what that molding tells us about the shape of transnational human rights policy as it continues to take on a distinct form in this century, especially where the efforts of governments, civil society actors and enterprises interlink.
Dear friends and colleagues,
This letter is to provide an update on my current activities as the UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment.
Report on good practices. My third annual report to the Human Rights Council is now available here. In the past year, my principal focus has been to identify, promote and exchange views on best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations to inform, support and strengthen environmental policymaking. Through regional consultations, country visits, questionnaires and research, and through assistance from many of you, we have identified more than 100 good practices.
The report describes practices of national Governments, subnational Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, corporations and others that employ human rights obligations relating to the environment in ways that go beyond basic human rights obligations. The practices are in the use of a wide range of human rights obligations relating to the environment, including (a) procedural obligations to make environmental information public, to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, to protect rights of expression and association, and to provide access to legal remedies; (b) substantive obligations, including obligations relating to non-State actors; (c) obligations relating to transboundary harm; and (d) obligations relating to those in vulnerable situations.
March session of the Human Rights Council. I will present the annual report and the compilation of good practices at an interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council on Monday, March 9. The next day, March 10, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., I will speak at a side-event on good practices and on possible future activities for the mandate. Both the Council session and the side-event will be at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The preceding Thursday, March 5, I will meet with civil society at the Palais Wilson from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. to discuss my work. If you would like to attend, please let us know by return email.
Panel discussion of climate change and human rights. On Friday, March 6, the Human Rights Council will have a panel discussion on climate change and human rights at the Palais des Nations. At the morning session, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the panel will discuss challenges and ways forward, including best practices, in addressing the adverse effects of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights. I will moderate the second panel, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., which will focus on the adverse impacts of climate change on States’ efforts progressively to realize the right to food. Closing remarks will be by Mary Robinson, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on climate change.
Joint statement by UN special rapporteurs and independent experts. On Human Rights Day, December 10, all of the UN special rapporteurs and independent experts issued a joint statement urging Member States of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to integrate human rights standards and principles in the climate change negotiations during the 20th Conference of the Parties, which was then taking place in Lima, Peru, and in the agreement to be adopted in Paris in December 2015. The full statement is available here.
Conference at Wake Forest University. On March 26 and 27, Wake Forest University will host an interdisciplinary conference on “the human face of environmental inequality” in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Speakers will include Mary Robinson and Andrew Revkin, the author of the Dot Earth blog for the New York Times. More information about the conference, including a program, is available here. I would enjoy the opportunity to welcome you to my academic home!
As I approach the end of the three-year term established by the Human Rights Council resolution that created the mandate, I want to thank all of you who have contributed to the work of the mandate. I deeply appreciate all that you have done, and are continuing to do, to protect the environment and human rights.
John H. Knox
UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment
Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law
Wake Forest University School of Law
Good PracticesThe Human Rights Council, in its resolution 19/10, requested the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, Mr. John Knox, 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 policy making, especially in the area of environmental protection and furthermore, requested him to prepare a compendium of best practices.
Pursuant to this request, the Independent Expert submitted his compendium of good practices to the Human Rights Council at its 28th session in March 2015. The report describes good practices of Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, corporations and others in the use of human rights obligations relating to the environment, including:
(a) procedural obligations to make environmental information public, to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, to protect rights of expression and association, and to provide access to legal remedies;The compilation of good practices (A/HRC/28/61) is available in all UN languages: E F S A C R
(b) substantive obligations, including obligations relating to non-state actors;
(c) obligations relating to transboundary harm; and
(d) obligations relating to those in vulnerable situations.
A one-page summary for each good practice is available in English.
One-page summaries of the good practices are also available on a searchable, stand-alone website: http://environmentalrightsdatabase.org
The process of compiling good practices
The two principal sources for identifying good practices have been consultations hosted by the Independent Expert and UNEP, as well as other partners, and responses to a questionnaire seeking good practices that was sent to Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, and other interested stakeholders. In addition, the Independent Expert identified good practices in his visits to Costa Rica and France. Finally, the Independent Expert sought good practices through additional contacts and research.
1. The Independent Expert sent out the questionnaire in the early summer of 2014.
- Nairobi, February 2013 (procedural obligations)Expert Consultation on Procedural Rights and Obligations, convened by the Independent Expert, OHCHR and UNEP (programme, consultation report)
- Geneva, June 2013 (substantive obligations)
Consultation on the Relation between Environmental Protection and Substantive Human Rights as well as Extraterritorial Obligations, convened by the Independent Expert and OHCHR (concept note and programme)
- Panama City, July 2013 (obligations relating to vulnerable groups)Regional Consultation on the Relation between Environmental Protection and Vulnerable Groups, convened by the Independent Expert, OHCHR and UNEP (programme, consultation report)
- Copenhagen, October 2013 (international institutions)Consultation on the Relation between Environmental Protection and Human Rights Obligations, convened by the Independent Expert, OHCHR in collaboration with the Danish Institute of Human Rights and the Asia-Europe Foundation (concept note and programme)
- Johannesburg, January 2014 (constitutional environmental rights)
Expert Consultation on Constitutional Environmental Rights, convened by the Independent Expert, UNEP and OHCHR (programme) (consultation report)
- Bangkok, May 2014 (environmental human rights defenders)Regional Consultation on Environmental Human Rights Defenders and Good Practices with a Focus on Asia, convened by the Independent Expert, UNEP and OHCHR (concept note, consultation report)
- Chamonix/Geneva, July 2014 (climate change)Public consultation on the relationship between human rights obligations and environmental protection, with a focus on climate change (concept note, focus report on climate change)