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 (Commission resolution 1995/81). The Commission and the Human Rights Council thereafter adopted several resolutions extending the mandate.
In September 2011, the Human Rights 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).
In view of the worryingly increasing trend of victimization, harassment, arbitrary detention and even killings of persons who advocate the environmentally sound management and disposal of these hazardous substances and wastes, the Human Rights Council further extended the scope of the mandate and in its resolution 21/17 of September 2012 included the issue of the protection of the environmental human rights defenders.
On the basis of resolution 21/17, the Special Rapporteur has 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.
In particular, resolution 21/17 requested the Special Rapporteur provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on the adverse effects that the improper management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes may have on the full enjoyment of human rights, for example, information on:
(a) The human rights issues raised by transnational corporations and other business enterprises in connection with the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(b) The scope of national legislation relating to the human rights implications of the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(c) The human rights implications of waste-recycling programmes and the transfer of polluting industries, industrial activities and technologies from one country to another and new trends therein, including e-waste and the dismantling of ships;
(d) Support and assistance to victims of human rights violations relating to the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;
(e) 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; and
(f) Human rights abuses and violations committed against human rights defenders owing to their activities relating to the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.
In addition, resolution 27/23 adopted in 2014 requested 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.