The seminar proceedings for the 13th Informal Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Seminar on Human Rights are now available online. The informal ASEM seminars promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Asia and Europe in the area of human rights. The 13th seminar, held last October in Copenhagen, focused on human rights and the environment.
A recent article in Ensia draws further attention to the increasing violence against environmental human rights defenders. The article, entitled “Dying to Save the World,” highlights the struggles activists face while defending the environment, and raises awareness about the rise in documented murders of local environmental activists across the globe.
The United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, John Knox, encourages States to fulfill their human rights obligations relating to environmental protection. On World Environment Day, Mr. Knox also urges governments worldwide to protect those who defend the environment necessary for our enjoyment of human rights.
In March 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted an important, far-reaching resolution on human rights and the environment. The resolution is available here. For a description of the resolution, see this article by John Knox at the Universal Rights Group website.
Global Witness has published a highly important report on the threats faced by environmental human rights defenders – those who peacefully advocate for the protection of human rights to the environment and land. The non-profit organization found 908 documented murders of environmental and land defenders from 2002 through 2013, an average of one every week.
The Independent Expert wrote his first country report following a visit to Costa Rica from 28 July to 1 August 2013. During the visit, Professor Knox looked at the how Costa Rica was implementing human rights related to the environment, identified good practices, and examined the challenges related to human rights and the environment.
On March 11, the Independent Expert spoke at a Side Event on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations in Geneva. He addressed human rights abuses and environmental harm caused by transnational corporations, and the relevant international legal framework.
On March 11, the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox, made a statement to the Human Rights Council presenting his mapping report and the report on his visit to Costa Rica, and also described his plans for the upcoming year of the mandate.
On March 11, the Independent Expert will present his annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report maps human rights obligations relating to the environment, on the basis of an extensive review of global and regional sources. The Independent Expert describes procedural obligations of States to assess environmental impacts on human rights and to make environmental information public, to facilitate participation in environmental decision-making, and to provide access to remedies for environmental harm. He describes States’ substantive obligations to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against environmental harm that interferes with the enjoyment of human rights, including harm caused by private actors. Finally, he outlines obligations relating to the protection of members of groups in vulnerable situations, including women, children and indigenous peoples.
Over the last year, the Independent Expert has overseen a research project to map the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The conclusions of the project are presented in the report to the Human Rights Council presented on 10 March 2014. The details of the research are contained in a series of 14 reports, each of which describes the relevant statements of a particular source or set of sources, including UN human rights treaty bodies, other UN bodies and mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council and its special rapporteurs, regional human rights systems, and international environmental instruments. To see those reports, click on the link.
Yale University, together with UNITAR and other partners, is holding a conference September 5-7 on the relationship of human rights and environmental sustainability. The Call for Abstracts is at the link. Note that the deadline for abstracts is April 1!