Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The position is honorary and the experts are not staff of the United Nations nor are they paid for their work. They express their view in an independent capacity and do not represent their Government.
For more information on the Special Rapporteurs, please refer to: Fact Sheet N° 27: Seventeen Frequently Asked Questions about United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur
In 1995, the then United Nations Commission on Human Rights (now Human Rights Council) noted that the illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous wastes and products has an adverse effect on the enjoyment of several human rights, and decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur with a mandate to examine the human rights aspects of this issue.
The scope of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was reviewed in September 2011, during the 18th session of the Human Rights Council. The Council decided to strengthen the mandate so as to cover not only the movement and the dumping of hazardous substances and waste, but also the whole life-cycle of hazardous products, from their manufacturing to their final disposal (cradle-to-grave approach). Accordingly, the title of the Special Rapporteur has been changed to the “Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes” (Human Rights Council resolution 18/11).
On the basis of this resolution, the Special Rapporteur has now the task to monitor the adverse effects that the generation, management, handling, distribution and final disposal of hazardous substances and wastes may have on the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to food, adequate housing, health and water.
Resolution 18/11 requests the Special Rapporteur to include in his report to the Council comprehensive information on:
(a) Human rights issues relating to transnational corporations and other business enterprises regarding environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(b) The question of rehabilitation of and assistance to victims of human rights violations relating to the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(c) The scope of national legislation in relation to the implications for human rights of the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(d) The human rights implications of waste-recycling programmes, the transfer of industries, industrial activities and technologies from one country to another and their new trends, including e-wastes and the dismantling of ships;
(e) The question of the ambiguities in international instruments that allow the movement and dumping of hazardous substances and wastes, and any gaps in the effectiveness of international regulatory mechanisms.
In addition the Resolution requests the Special Rapporteur to develop, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, a set of best practices on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste.
Implementation of the mandate by the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur implements the mandate through different means and activities. As assigned by the different resolutions related to the mandate:
- The Special Rapporteur presents annual reports to the Human Rights Council on the activities and studies undertaken in the view of the implementation of the mandate (See Annual Reports);
- He/She monitors the adverse effects on human rights of the improper management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste throughout the world. He/she identifies general trends related to such phenomena and undertakes country visits which provide the Special Rapporteur with a first hand account on the situation relevant to his/her mandate in a specific country (See Country visits);
- He/She communicates with States and other concerned parties with regard to alleged cases of the improper management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste (See Individual complaints) and other issues related to his/her mandate;
He/She promotes a human rights-based approach to hazardous substances and waste management through dialogue with relevant actors by participating in seminars, conferences, expert meetings.