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UN expert calls for global recognition of the right to safe and healthy environment

GENEVA (5 March 2018) – It is high time that the international community recognized the human right to a healthy environment, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, said on Monday.    

Knox presented a report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva setting out framework principles for States to ensure the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment* within the context of human rights.
“There can no longer be any doubt that human rights and the environment are interdependent,” he stressed.

“A healthy environment is necessary for the full enjoyment of many human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and development. At the same time, the exercise of other freedoms, including the rights to information, participation and remedy, is vital to the protection of the environment.

“The relationship between human rights and the environment has countless facets, and our understanding of it will continue to grow for many years to come.”

Knox emphasized that while the right to a healthy environment had been recognized in regional agreements and in most national constitutions, it has not been adopted in a human rights agreement of global application.

“As Victor Hugo famously declared, it is impossible to resist an idea whose time has come,” the Special Rapporteur said. “I hope the Human Rights Council agrees the the right to a healthy environment is an idea whose time is here. The Council should consider supporting the recognition of this right in a global instrument.”


* The Special Rapporteur’s framework principles can be found through the link below: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/Annualreports.aspx

(*) The UN Human Rights Council appointed Mr. John H. Knox in 2012 to serve as Independent Expert, and reappointed him in 2015 as Special Rapporteur on human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

The Council requested him, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United States, to clarify the application of human rights norms to environmental protection, and to identify best practices in the use of human rights obligations in environmental policy-making.  

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Jamshid Gaziyev (+41 22 917 9183 / jgaziyev@ohchr.org); Soo-Young Hwang (+4122 917 9267/ shwang@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.