For more information about CIEL's Human Rights & Environment Program, contact Marcos Orellana.

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UN Human Rights Council establishes independent Expert on human rights and the environment


March 23, 2012

CIEL and Earthjustice, working closely with Maldives, Costa Rica and Switzerland, obtained from the UN Human Rights Council a resolution on Human Rights & Environment that establishes an Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. This Council resolution was adopted by consensus in its recently concluded 19th Session, with more than 80 States co-sponsoring, and it crystallizes efforts over many years from many quarters. CIEL also had the opportunity to address the plenary of the Council in support of this resolution [see CIEL's statement].

The Council's resolution establishes an institutional vehicle to advance the linkages between Human Rights and the Environment. It is expected that this new Special Procedure will lay the basis for the Council's recognition of a universal right to a healthy environment. In addition the new Independent Expert is tasked with identifying and promoting best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations to strengthen environmental protection.

The resolution establishing the new IE's mandate also includes direct and explicit reference to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. For example, the resolution mandates the IE to: "(d) To take into account the results of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, and to contribute a human rights perspective to follow-up processes." The resolution also, "Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in order to promote a human rights perspective."

Now that progress has been achieved in the "environment" track at the Human Rights Council, the time is ripe to advance on the "climate change" track. An experts meeting convened by CIEL, Earthjustice, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Geneva on the linkages between human rights, environment and climate change identified the core elements of a "climate change" Special Rapporteur that could be established by the Council. These core elements include:

• hearing victims of climate change and human rights violations;
• raising awareness of the human rights dimension of climate change; and,
• engaging negotiations at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Council is expected to consider the outcomes of the February 2012 CC&HRs "Seminar" in its June Session.

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