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Human Rights and the Environment

Looting and destruction of homes in Abyei © OHCHR Photo/Scott CampbellThe resolution 16/11 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 12th of April 2011 entitled “Human Rights and the environment” requested the Office of the High Commissioner “in consultation with and taking into account the views of States Members of the United Nations, relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme and relevant multilateral environmental agreements, special procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders, to conduct, within existing resources, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between human rights and the environment” (para.1).

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights would be grateful to receive any relevant information for the preparation of this study. In particular, views and information would be welcome on:

  • Steps taken at national and regional levels, including in the normative, legislative and judicial spheres, to better understand and address the relationship between human rights and the environment;
  • Views on the relationship between human rights obligations and environmental protection, including issues related to international cooperation of States in respect to global environmental harms (such as climate change-related harms) and other key areas of environmental policy such as biodiversity, ecosystem services and desertification;
  • Relevant national, regional and international lessons learned and good practices, including examples of how human rights have been integrated in the design and implementation of environmental and sustainable development policies and measures, and examples of the human rights impacts of environmental disasters and of the responses thereto; and
  • Recommendations for future areas of work in developing the normative and policy framework for human rights and environmental protection.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights would be grateful if any information Governments you may wish to provide could be sent to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (United Nations Office at Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 10; Fax. +41.22 - 917.90.08; E-mail: registry@ohchr.org) by 10 June 2011. Please indicate whether the information provided could be made available on the OHCHR website.

Background

Choices made by governments and other actors that effect the environment, or that frame responses to environmental challenges, impact directly on the realization of human rights. The link between the environment and human rights has long been recognized. The Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm (1972), and to a lesser extent the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), show how the link between human rights and dignity and the environment was very prominent in the early stages of United Nations efforts to address environmental problems.

Since 1989, the Commission on Human Rights started to address environmental issues through resolutions on movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes (Resolution - 1989/42).  The Commission on Human Rights adopted its first resolution entitled Human rights and the environment in 1994 followed by a number of resolutions on the same subject matter in 1995 and 1996 (Res. 1994/65; Res. 1995/14; Res. 1996/13).

From 2002, the Year of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions on the environment that were entitled Human rights and the environment as part of sustainable development (Res. 2002/75; Res. 2003/71; Res. 2005/60).