Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
John H. Knox | UN | 2018
1. After reviewing the activities of the Special Rapporteur in 2017, the present report focuses on the rights of children in relation to the environment, addressing the ways that environmental harm prevents children from enjoying their human rights and the obligations that States have to protect children from such harm.
2. The Special Rapporteur held an expert meeting and a public consultation on 17–18 October on “framework principles” on human rights and the environment, which are the subject of a separate report to the thirty-seventh session of the Council (A/HRC/37/59). He carried out two country visits, to Uruguay in April and to Mongolia in September, which are also the subject of separate reports (A/HRC/37/58/Add.1 and Add.2). He sent or joined in 27 communications to States regarding alleged violations of human rights obligations relating to the environment. He worked with the United Nations Environment Programme and other partners, including the Global Judicial Institute for the Environment, to conduct a regional workshop for judges on rights-based approaches to environmental issues, which was held in Brasília on 22–23 May. A regional workshop for Asian judges is expected to take place in Pakistan in February 2018.
3. In accordance with the encouragement of the Council in its resolution 28/11 to continue to contribute to and participate in, where appropriate, intergovernmental conferences and meetings relevant to the mandate, the Special Rapporteur spoke on 31 July to the negotiators of a regional agreement on implementation of principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, on rights of information, participation and remedy. He presented a statement to the sixth meeting of the parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention) on 14 September, and on 4–5 December, he participated in the third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, in Nairobi. He also spoke at the World Bank on 4 May, and at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency on 19 October.
4. The Special Rapporteur continues to draw attention to threats facing environmental defenders around the world. He participated in conferences on environmental defenders at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on 20–21 June and in Mexico City on 6 November. Together with the Universal Rights Group, he organized a meeting of environmental defenders in Bogotá on 8–9 November, at which the Spanish-language version of a web portal for environmental defenders, environment-rights.org, was launched. He also supported a new environmental rights initiative at the United Nations Environment Programme, which will, among other things, try to address threats facing individuals and groups working to protect the environment.
5. In preparation for the present report, the Special Rapporteur participated in the day of general discussion of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on children’s rights and the environment, on 23 September 2016. He held an expert meeting and a public consultation on 22–23 June 2017, and sent a questionnaire to States and other interested stakeholders, which elicited over 40 responses. He also examined statements and reports of human rights mechanisms and international organizations, as well as other sources.
6. Section II of the present report reviews the increasing attention being paid to the relationship of the rights of children to environmental harm. Section III describes the severe effects of environmental harm on the rights of children. Section IV outlines the human rights obligations relating to children’s rights in the environmental context. Section V addresses the relationship of future generations and children’s rights. Section VI concludes with recommendations aimed at protecting the rights of children from environmental harm.