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Council holds interactive dialogue with Independent Experts on Human Rights and the Environment and on Foreign Debt

Human Rights Council 
MORNING 

11 March 2014

Concludes interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to food and on adequate housing

This morning the Council held a clustered interactive dialogue with Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox, and with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Cephas Lumina.
 
Introducing his report, John Knox presented the conclusions of the mapping exercise and a review of authoritative sources on human rights obligations relating to the environment.  On the basis of the mapping project, it was now beyond argument that human rights law included obligations relating to the environment and recognized that not all States had formally accepted all of the norms and that those obligations needed to be further clarified.  Mr. Knox also spoke about his visit to Costa Rica.
 
Cephas Lumina said that as this was his last interactive dialogue and thanked the Council for the opportunity to serve as part of its Special Procedures.  The report underscored that the substantial amounts lost through illicit financial outflows could help the efforts of developing countries to mobilize domestic resources for poverty alleviation, development and the realization of human rights, and reduce the dependence on external financing.  Mr. Lumina reported on his country visits to Greece, Japan and Argentina. 
 
Costa Rica, Greece, Japan and Argentina spoke as concerned countries.
 
During the clustered interactive dialogue on the environment and on foreign debt, speakers agreed that all necessary measures needed to be taken in order to protect citizens from all harmful effects on the environment.  Even without the adoption of an explicit new right to a healthy environment, some delegations stressed, it had become clear that environmental harm may be relevant to existing human rights, such as the right to life, health and property.  Noting that international negotiations had not produced global agreements, others suggested that failure to do this undermined States’ efforts to link the right to a healthy environment to the enjoyment of human rights.  The question of extraterritorial obligations and transnational actors under human rights affecting the environment were also of paramount importance and had to be studied in more depth in the Human Rights Council and other bodies. 
 
Regarding the report of the Independent Expert on foreign debt, delegations expressed alarm at the striking figures of the large outflows of funds of illicit origin from developing to developed countries, showing that the problem was grave.  Human rights had to be dealt with using a holistic approach, and the most appropriate bodies to deal with the problem, such as the international financial institutions had failed to find an equitable and durable solution to the debt crisis, as they were not equipped to address the human rights aspects.  Delegations stressed the importance of the return of illicit funds by destination countries for the democratic development of people in countries of origin. Cumbersome procedures should not deny the right to have those funds returned, it was said.
 
Speaking in concluding remarks, John Knox, Independent Expert on the environment, welcomed examples from States on the application of the obligations for environmental protection.  Any national environment policy should provide for informed participation, environmental impact assessment, remedies and take into account international health standards.  National environmental standards should be effectively implemented and enforced and the policy must take into account the situation of vulnerable groups. 
 
Cephas Lumina, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt, shared the concern raised by Japan about risks countries ran of increasing their foreign debts by borrowing on the international capital market.  The concerns raised in the report were not new, said Mr. Lumina, but had not been addressed to the extent expected, partly due to resource constraints but mainly because it was a highly politicized issue.
 
Council Members and Observers participating in the dialogue were: Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Egypt, European Union, Algeria, Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Slovenia, Syria, Tunisia, France, African Union, Uruguay, Indonesia, Philippines, Ecuador, Cuba, Sudan, Chile, United States, Maldives, Morocco, China, Djibouti, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Switzerland, United Nations Environment Programme, Ireland, Bolivia, and Peru.
 
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Scottish Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Franciscans International, Earth Justice, Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Amnesty International, Human Rights Advocates, Centre Europe – Tiers Monde, Action Canada for Population and Development, France Libertes and Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights.
 
Earlier in the morning the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to food and on adequate housing.  A summary of the initial discussion and the presentation of the reports of the Special Rapporteurs is available here.
 
Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and on Adequate Housing
 
Speaking in concluding remarks, Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that it was no longer acceptable to see solutions to hunger and nutrition in increased production of food combined with trade and aid.  The effort to place food on top of the international agenda should move away from an exclusive focus on benefits to the producers to sustainable food systems that provide benefits equitably.
 
Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, also in concluding remarks, said that the issue of adequate housing had not been properly addressed in the Millennium Development Goals and expressed fear that the new post-2015 discussions might do the same.   Land and inheritance registration were key sectors in which the autonomy of women could be enhanced. 
 
During the interactive dialogue, representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Djibouti, Namibia, and Ireland took the floor.
 
The following non-governmental organizations also participated in the dialogue: COC Nederland International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Advocates, International Movement ATD Fourth World, African Technology Development Link, Europe-Third World Centre, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Habitat International Coalition, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, and Foodfirst Information and Action Network.
 
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  This afternoon the Council will start a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the freedom of religion or belief and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  Following that, at 3 p.m. the Council will hold a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space. 
 
Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and on Adequate Housing
 
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies commended the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for her most recent report, particularly for raising the importance of the issue of security of tenure in the humanitarian context and the proposed Guiding Principles.  The lack of tenure security experienced by many affected by natural disasters posed a barrier to the provision of humanitarian shelter and other forms of humanitarian assistance.  Djibouti underlined that the right to food was vital for the enjoyment of other rights such as the right to work, the right to development or the right to education.  The transnational movement of people caused by famine could put pressure on already stretched resource systems.  Djibouti inquired how to improve coordination between various stakeholders in trade, development and the scientific community in order to find a coherent solution to this problem. 
 
Namibia welcomed the comprehensive reports by the Special Rapporteurs on the right to food and on adequate housing as well as the Guiding Principles and called for further substantive discussion on the matter.  Namibia said it had a National Housing Policy, through which the Government recognized shelter as a fundamental right, one whose objectives was to promote partnership between the public and private sector to achieve efficient, adequate and affordable housing for all Namibians.  Ireland extended its appreciation for the valuable and insightful contribution of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to this important mandate and supported the conclusion in the report that the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in a sustainable manner was an achievable goal.  Ireland asked for the views of the Special Rapporteur on the illustrative goal and targets related to food and nutrition security set out in the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda last year.
 
COC Nederland International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons throughout the world continued to suffer discrimination in all spheres of life which had a negative impact on the enjoyment of their right to adequate housing.  Human Rights Advocates said that genetically modified crops undermined food sovereignty as they made farmers dependent on international corporations and expressed concern about continuing violations of the right to adequate housing in mega-events.  International Movement ATD Fourth World said that the seizure and exploitation of land for more valuable cash crops was a significant issue and echoed the call of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food for the establishment of the Global Fund for Social Protection. 
 
African Technology Development Link said that no society could progress if its members were struggling to survive and that the minimum level of health standards must be observed which would ensure that citizens had enough food to keep them healthy.  Europe-Third World Centre, in a joint statement with International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements, said that no fundamental changes were taking place in the food and agricultural policies and that agrarian reform was still not on the agenda of States, while the monopoly of transnational corporations over the most fertile land was becoming stronger.
 
BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights said that the forced displacement of Palestinian families and the destruction of civilian homes by Israel had a serious impact, disrupting livelihoods and reducing standards of living and access to basic services.  Habitat International Coalition said evidence showed that the global crisis on tenure could not be resolved if the current policies in the global north and south continued to be applied.  A paradigm shift with regards to housing and security of tenure was needed.  There was a neglect of the qualitative side of housing.
 
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that today there were 800 million people starving and 936 million without enough food to eat.  The Human Rights Council was called upon to confirm and refocus the compass on its mission, to achieve Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to work together to provide food, shelter and security and not to tire or stray from this goal.  Foodfirst Information and Action Network shared the call of the Special Rapporteur for radical and democratic world food systems to ensure the human right to adequate food.  The new Special Rapporteur should build upon the analytical and normative work of predecessors and was encouraged to ensure appropriate follow-up to emblematic cases, and contribute to the development of new international standards.
 
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and on Adequate Housing
 
OLIVIER DE SHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in his closing remarks said that, concerning the need for the international environment to enable national efforts to realize the right to food, it was important to realize that without greater support many poorer countries would not be able to establish standing protection schemes as the report advocated.  Mr. De Shutter underlined the need for a Global Fund for social protection to allow sustainable social protection schemes and support progress in the establishment of social protection floors.
 
It was no longer acceptable to see solutions to hunger and nutrition in increased production of food combined with trade and aid.  Concerted help to countries to reinvest in their local food production was needed, and more should be done to align trade policies with the specific exigencies to fulfil the right to food.  On the questions on how to integrate the environment of food production and provision and adequate nutrition, he commented that many countries had agricultural policies, but very few had food policies, and those were often not specifically defined.  They were not taking into account equity and sustainability dimensions, although advances in incorporating those dimensions into national strategies were noted, namely programmes by South Africa, Mexico and Brazil to fight hunger.  The effort to place food on top of the international agenda would be successful if they focused on reducing inequalities, and moved away from an exclusive focus on benefits to the producers to the sustainable food systems providing benefits equitably.
 
RAQUEL ROLNIK, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, in her closing remarks said that the issue of adequate housing had not been properly addressed in the Millennium Development Goals and expressed fear that the new post-2015 discussions might do the same.  It was very important to bring the issue of tenure for the urban poor and the housing crisis to the post-2015 development agenda so that they were adequately addressed.  The right to adequate housing was not just about supply and demand, but about different conditions of different groups and priority must be given to the most vulnerable.  On the right of women to security of tenure irrespective of their relationship with men, Ms. Rolnik said that land and inheritance registration were key sectors in which the autonomy of women could be enhanced.  It was also possible that private companies could dedicate themselves to adequate housing for the poor and an example was the Oxfam UK campaign to which Coca Cola was one of the first companies to sign up, in which it committed to keep its whole production chain free from land grabbing.  Ms. Rolnik stressed the importance of security of tenure and thanked the Human Rights Council for the support she had received throughout her mandate.
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John H. Knox - Mapping report (A/HRC/25/53).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment on his Mission to Costa Rica (A/HRC/25/53/Add.1).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment on his Mission to Costa Rica of comments by Costa Rica (To be issued: A/HRC/25/53/Add.2).
 
The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/25/50).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights on his Mission to Greece (A/HRC/25/50/Add.1).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights on his Mission to Japan (A/HRC/25/50/Add.2).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights on his Mission to Argentina (A/HRC/25/50/Add.3).
 
Presentation by the Independent Experts on the Environment and on Foreign Debt
 
JOHN KNOX, Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, presented the conclusions of the mapping exercise and a review of authoritative sources on human rights obligations relating to the environment.  Human rights bodies had developed a coherent body of environmental human rights obligations, in which they agreed that human rights law imposed obligations on States in relation to environmental protection; protection against environmental harm that interfered with the enjoyment of human rights; and taking into account the situation of groups particularly vulnerable to environmental harm.  States must not discriminate against groups on prohibited grounds in the application of their environmental laws and policies and they must take additional steps to protect certain groups, such as women and indigenous peoples.  Mr. Knox said that on the basis of this mapping project, it was now beyond argument that human rights law included obligations relating to the environment and recognized that not all States had formally accepted all of those norms and that those obligations needed to be further clarified.
 
In cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Independent Expert started the process of consultations for the preparation of a compendium of best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations and commitments to inform, support and strengthen environmental policymaking, especially in the area of environmental protection, scheduled to be finished by spring of 2015.  Mr. Knox thanked the Government of Costa Rica for inviting him to visit during which he had identified several innovative ways that Costa Rica used human rights to support and strengthen its efforts to protect its environment, including adding a right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment into the constitution.  The report also described some challenges, such as how to set aside protected areas and at the same time respect the rights of those who lived in those areas for many years, even generations.  Mr. Knox said that it was important to ensure that environmental rights never became a reason to violate other rights and the right to a healthy environment need not conflict with other fundamental rights.  A strong commitment to human rights and to environmental protection could go hand in hand, each strengthening the other.
 
CEPHAS LUMINA, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, said that as this was his last interactive dialogue with the Council, he wished to express profound gratitude to the Council for the opportunity to serve as part of its Special Procedures.  With regards to the Council’s request to develop a commentary on the Guiding Principles on foreign debt and human rights, it unfortunately could not be presented in its final form as some important information that had been received late had had to be incorporated.  Illicit financial flows, including those that derived from corruption and embezzlement by public officials, had considerable negative impacts on the realization of human rights, particularly in developing countries.  The repatriation of illicit funds made available much needed additional resources for development, poverty alleviation and the fulfilment of human rights.  The challenge was to ensure the efficient, accountable and transparent use of such assets.
 
The report acknowledged that official development assistance remained an important source of finance for poverty alleviation and development, but underscored that the substantial amounts lost through illicit financial outflows could help the efforts of developing countries to mobilize domestic resources for poverty alleviation, development and the realization of human rights, and reduce the dependence on external financing.  With regards to country missions, it was recommended that Greece’s international lenders should revisit their approach to the country’s debt problem and in particular consider preparing a new adjustment programme with better conditions that would allow Greece to address its deficit and debt problems without undermining the enjoyment of human rights.  Japan’s international development cooperation programme was commendable but nonetheless could be strengthened by the integration of a human rights-based approach.  Argentina should conduct a comprehensive, transparent and participatory audit of its public debt in accordance with the Guiding Principles on foreign debt and human rights.
 
Statements from Concerned Countries
 
Costa Rica, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Independent Experts for their presentations and the opportunity to discuss the findings of their reports.  Focusing on the report of Mr. Knox, Costa Rica recognized the importance of identifying how the enjoyment of human rights could be threatened due to environmental degradation.  Costa Rica affirmed that existing human rights norms gave certain obligations to States concerning environmental protection, including the evaluation of the impact on human rights and making information related to the environment public, facilitating public participation in environmental decision-making and granting access to vital resources to compensate for caused degradation.  During Mr. Knox’s visit, all guarantees were offered for contact with any civil society representative he deemed relevant.  Substantial obligations concerning environmental protection included adopting and implementing judicial and institutional means to protect against environmental degradation and regulating private actors to protect against negative consequences of degradation.  According to the constitution, Costa Rica had several scientific norms and laws and was available to share good practices with interested countries.
 
Greece, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt for the report on his visit to Greece from 22 to 26 April 2013.  Greece affirmed its commitment to the promotion, on an equal basis, of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  It supported in every possible way the work of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and issued a standing invitation to all Special Procedures. In this framework, during his visit, Mr. Lumina met with a series of Government officials and other stakeholders and representatives of non-governmental organizations.  Greece hoped that the programme of the visit was satisfactory in providing the information he needed and thanked him for his cooperation and efforts.
 
Japan, speaking as a concerned country, thanked Mr. Lumina on his report and said that Japan’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in its international cooperation programmes had not been adequately addressed in Mr. Lumina’s report.  Japan was one of the largest contributors to debt relief initiatives.  It was necessary to monitor the situation with new forms of bonds so that the debt of developing countries did not increase in an unsustainable manner.  Japan stressed that it implemented its official development assistance in accordance with the principles stipulated in the Official Development Assistance Charter and that was why it supported developing countries in setting foundations for good governance and protecting the environment and paid attention to human rights situations in recipient countries.
 
Argentina, speaking as a concerned country, stressed the importance it attached to the issue of foreign debt and thanked the Independent Expert for his visit in which he was informed about the burden of servicing foreign debt.  Foreign debt should not become an obstacle to national sovereignty and should not interfere with the ability of countries to provide services to their populations.  The predatory behaviour of vulture funds should be dealt with and they should be prevented from obtaining immoral profits.  Argentina was working very hard to comply with the objectives pointed in the report of the Independent Expert and was taking a number of measures to promote economic, social and cultural rights in the country, combat gender inequality, reduce poverty, and combat unemployment and child labour.
 
Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Experts on the Environment and on Foreign Debt
 
Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, agreed that all necessary measures needed to be taken in order to protect citizens from all harmful effects on the environment and endorsed all the recommendations concerning the dissemination of information to make sure that the proper use of the environment was made.  International negotiations had not produced global agreements and failure to do this undermined States’ efforts to link the right to a healthy environment to the enjoyment of human rights.  Egypt said that it was worth clarifying, among others, that the global consensus on the definition of sustainable development was very clear and had three pillars: economic development, social development and environmental development.  Any attempt to deal with sustainable development should have a balanced approach between those three pillars.  European Union said that even without the adoption of an explicit new right to a healthy environment, it had become clear that environmental harm may be relevant to existing human rights, such as the right to life, health and property.  In view of this, what would be the added value of a stand-alone human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment at the international level?  Algeria enquired as to what would be the indispensable elements that had to be included in national plans for environmental issues?  The question of extraterritorial obligations under human rights affecting the environment were also of paramount importance and had to be studied in more depth in the Human Rights Council and other bodies. 
 
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, urged the international community to develop guidelines for overcoming challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation with a view to ensure the enjoyment of human rights.  There was alarm at the striking figures of the large outflows of funds of illicit origin from developing to developed countries, showing that the problem was grave.  Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, was deeply concerned by the alarming figures of the vast outflows of funds of illicit origin from developing to developed countries.  It firmly believed that corruption and the transfer of funds of illicit origin may endanger the stability and security of societies, undermining the values of democracy and morality and jeopardizing social, economic and political development. 
 
United Arab Emirates welcomed the report of Mr. Knox and stressed that the protection of environmental rights required substantial financial resources to regulate the use of toxic substances and water and air pollution and to invest in a green economy, while those technologies and the ability to find solutions were not available to all countries.  Costa Rica highlighted the identification of how environmental damage threatened human rights and the excellent compilation of human rights obligations of States in the report of Mr. Knox.  Those did not require cessation of all activities causing environmental damage, but the achievement of a balance between environmental protection and important social questions such as economic development and the rights of others. 
 
Sierra Leone emphasized the importance of international cooperation that took into account the capacity of each State.  Environmental impact assessments should incorporate human rights issues and stakeholders should be consulted and advised during the process.  Sierra Leone agreed that foreign debt and an excessive debt burden had an impact on a State’s capacity to grant the enjoyment of human rights and in this respect debt relief measures and foreign direct investment remained crucial.  Côte d’Ivoire took note of Mr. Lumina’s report for its recognition of challenges in addressing the effects of foreign debt, which could disrupt democratic and moral values and compromise States’ social, political and economic development.  Human rights had to be dealt with using a holistic approach, and the most appropriate bodies to deal with this problem, such as the international financial institutions, had failed to find an equitable and durable solution to the debt crisis, as they were not equipped to address the human rights aspects.
 
Guatemala commended the effort of Mr. Knox to compile a comprehensive list of human rights  threatened by environmental damage and considered that the objective of compounding good practices for March 2015 would contribute not only to human rights promotion and protection but also to the enjoyment of a clean environment, allowing replication of a sustainable model.  Slovenia said that the report of the Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the environment brought clarity for the Member States to take informed decisions and design policies that promoted connections between human rights and the environment.  Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteur for concrete examples of the effective protection of environmental human rights defenders.
 
Syria noted the recommendations by Mr. Knox to countries to commit to develop a legal framework for the protection of the environment and condemned the violation of human rights through trade, particularly in territories occupied by Israel.  Tunisia was pleased with the exhaustive analysis of States’ obligations in relation to the environment and said that the right to a clean environment was included in its constitution.  Tunisia stressed the importance of the return of illicit funds by destination countries for the democratic development of people in countries of origin.  France said that it was working closely with developing countries to promote a transition to low-carbon economies and as the host of the 2015 Climate Conference would adopt a positive stance to develop a global response to climate change. 
 
African Union said that the return of illicit funds to countries of origin was essential for them to develop and combat poverty effectively and stressed that cumbersome procedures should not deny the right to the return of those funds.  Uruguay said that States must assess the impact on human rights of their environmental decisions and make those publicly available to the population and said that Uruguay was the first country in the world to codify the right to water.  Indonesia agreed that States must strike a balance between environmental protection and societal good and asked the Independent Expert how to ensure that current deliberations did not derail development.
 
Philippines said that there was no doubt that climate change was the cause of the super typhoons that had besieged the country recently, which adversely impacted not only the economic social and cultural rights, but also the lives of its people.  It agreed that the protection of human rights in the context of the environment had both procedural and substantial aspects.  Chile said with regard to the identification of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, underscored and valued the support provided by the Independent Expert to the process of strengthening environmental democracy that was taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean.  United States agreed that the effective enjoyment of human rights could be threatened by environmental harm and underscored that the free exercise of human rights often contributed to good environmental policy.  It asked the Independent Expert’s view on possible issues that should be explored to further understanding of the relationship between the environment and human rights. 
 
Ecuador said the enjoyment of human rights was closely linked to the protection and respect for the environment, and that was included in its 2008 Constitution.  The legal and institutional framework had to be approved to protect citizens against environmental damage.  External debt had adversely affected the ability of States to uphold human rights and it was necessary to push forward the international discussion by focusing on the human being and their rights.  Sudan strongly believed that foreign debt was one of the most serious impediments to the enjoyment of human rights as it seriously hindered the ability of developing and least developed countries in fulfilling basic human rights relating to food security.  Sudan also expressed concern regarding the lack of support to the Independent Expert’s mandate by some members of the international community.  Cuba said that the effect of debt on the enjoyment of human rights had been well documented.  Economic, social and cultural rights of all countries and in particular developing countries were affected.  Cuba would continue to support the mandate of the Independent Expert in spite of ongoing opposition by States that were not interested in recognizing realities.
 
Maldives said the Independent Expert had contributed to global trends towards greater uniformity in standards of protection of sustainable environment incorporating human rights. Striving to fulfil its substantive obligations, Maldives was deeply concerned by the effects of climate change and resulting threats on human rights.  It adopted an island strategy to mitigate negative consequences.  It supported international efforts to find a more effective global mitigation strategy.  Morocco shared the view that States had to enrich their normative bases with regard to the protection of environment, as a preliminary element to sharing good practices.  Morocco welcomed the upcoming visit of the Independent Expert to Morocco to measure its efforts in the environmental sphere, such as political, institutional, judicial and socio-economic reforms and incorporation of right to environment in its constitution.
 
China said it placed great importance on environmental protection and governance; it was implementing restoration measures to protect the environment, and transparency and accountability measures.  Developing countries were burdened with foreign debt, which threatened their development and affected people’s rights.  China had provided assistance to developing countries to the best of its capacity.  Djibouti welcomed the focus of the report on the establishment of a system of obligation for the protection of the environment and stressed the need for civil society participation. Djibouti had launched a micro-finance project to promote community practices for sustainable development.  Regional cooperation played an important role through the pooling of resources, capacities and best practices.  Bangladesh stressed the need for remedies for victims of both trans-boundary activities on the environment and those of non-state actors.  Bangladesh appreciated the recommendation concerning further analyses on illicit financial flows and their repatriation in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.  The repatriation of funds should be devoid of any conditional ties; illicit financial flows deprived States of significant resources for the promotion and protection of human rights.
 
Venezuela was at the forefront of environmental legislation, as established by the Constitution, and the national assembly was discussing legislation on criminal environmental law; efforts should be made to pool resources for a global movement to reverse the effects of climate change.  There was no doubt that foreign debt had a negative impact on developing countries, particularly on economic, social and cultural rights.  The Council should move beyond hypocrisy and adopt guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights.  Switzerland said it had adopted measures concerning participation in decision-making on environmental question and reiterated the important role played by human rights defenders in the field of the environment, requesting the Independent Expert to elaborate on good practices and mechanisms to address impunity concerning attacks on human rights defenders in the field.  The United Nations Environment Programme said human rights and the environment were inextricably linked, and spoke about its joint project with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights obligations relating to environmental protection.  States should take human rights obligations into account in the development and implementation of their environmental policies.
 
Ireland said while recognition of the links between human rights and the environment had increased, the mapping report was a particularly valuable contribution.  The obligations were both procedural and substantive.  The focus on specific groups that may be particularly vulnerable to environmental harm was welcomed, as well as the increased focus on the impact of climate change.  Bolivia agreed that amongst the issues that required more attention was the need to cooperate on the international level on global environmental problems.  In spite of countless number of fora, some States were reluctant to seriously address the effects of climate change, which had a real impact on the enjoyment of human rights and the development of life itself.  Peru agreed that the obligation to protect human rights from environmental damage did not require that States prohibited all activities that could damage the environment and that States could choose to ensure a balance between the protection of the environment and legitimate social interests.  For Peru, setting up mining projects meant strengthening the social contract with the community, the enterprise and the State, fostering a harmonious relationship.
 
Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomed the focus on identifying legal and institutional framework that States had to adopt to protect individuals against environmental harm that interfered with the enjoyment of human rights.  Scotland had created a climate justice fund that supported water projects in Malawi and Zambia.  National Human Rights Council of Morocco, said it was finalizing a thematic report on the right to a healthy environment progress and limits.  The report highlighted the normative evolution of the right, its correlation with other human rights and challenges that remained to implement it.
 
Franciscans International, speaking in a joint statement with Vivat International and Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, said the two reports were clear in advising States as to the primacy of their human rights obligations in policy decisions, including those related to lending and borrowing decisions as well as those that could lead to environmental harm.  Yet, what had been seen was a systematic undermining of human rights and environmental protection.  Earth Justice, speaking in a joint statement with Center for International Environment Law,  encouraged the Council to recognize the right to a healthy environment as a freestanding right.  The recognition of that right would help to strengthen accountability and understanding of the human rights consequences of environmental damage.  The organization also welcomed emphasis on the dire situation of environment defenders. 
 
Eastern Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project appreciated the attention paid to human rights defenders in the report of the Independent Expert.  The non-governmental organization remained particularly concerned about reports of violations against defenders working in the oil and extractive industries in the East and Horn of Africa.  It welcomed the Independent Expert’s plan to examine good practices and called on States to take active and urgent measures.  Amnesty International said 2014 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy in India, when deadly toxic gas leaked from the former Union Carbide pesticide plant resulting in the deaths of more than 20,000 people.  The organization urged the Council to draw attention to the ongoing impacts of the Bhopal disaster and called on India to invite an independent expert to conduct an assessment of the extent of contamination.  Human Rights Advocates said the issue of electronic waste showed the need for a stronger mandate on the human rights and the environment, as the existing mandate on toxic waste did not fully address the scope of the problem.  Greater resources must be given to the Independent Expert on human rights and the environment to ensure that the e-waste phenomenon did not undermine the full enjoyment of human rights. 
 
Centre Europe – Tiers Monde said that the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms had addressed the impact of foreign debt on human rights.  The non-governmental organization supported the analytical framework presented by the Independent Expert on foreign debt and his recommendation, in particular the guiding principles. An equitable international order was necessary for the enjoyment of human rights.  Action Canada for Population and Development, speaking in a joint statement with International Indian Treaty Council, highlighted the severe and ongoing harm caused to indigenous communities, in particular women and girls, by toxic contamination and other forms of environmental damage.  Attention must be paid to ways in which different rights were affected by resource extractive industries, including through indirect mechanisms such as social stresses and increase in sexual violence in communities.  France Libertes, speaking in a joint statement with Indian Council of South America, said indigenous peoples were particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation and extractive industries could infringe upon their rights in different ways.  The organization stressed the fact that the real purpose of consultation with indigenous peoples was not simply about consent but to allow them to participate and influence decisions by the State. 
 
Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights said that about three years had passed since the Fukushima disaster, but about 100,000 persons were living as internal displaced persons.  The Government and Tokyo Electric Power company had not fairly compensated victims.  They were still prioritizing profit over life, and promotion and export of atomic power generation.  Human Rights Now expressed grave concern over the human rights situation of people affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The Government’s effort had not been sufficient or effective to protect people’s right to health and had not conducted any health monitoring of affected people outside the so-called evacuation zones, except for children’s thyroid cancer in limited areas. 
 
European Union of Public Relations said that an equitable economic order was essential for preservation of human rights particularly in developing and poor countries.  Many developing and poor countries continued to bear the burden of foreign debt.  Often, human rights suffered as money was diverted to pay off accumulated debt rather than being channeled into productive activities. 
 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
JOHN KNOX, Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, welcomed the examples from States of the application of obligations for environmental protection and said that essential elements to be included in national environmental policy were outlined in the report.  The policy should provide for informed participation, environmental impact assessment, remedies, and take into account international health standards.  Once adopted, the national environmental standards should be effectively implemented and enforced and the policy must take into account the situation of vulnerable groups.  The issue of environment and climate change would be on the agenda of the Independent Expert next year, he added.
 
CEPHAS LUMINA, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, said he shared the concern raised by Japan about the risks countries ran in increasing their foreign debt by borrowing on from the international capital market.  The concerns raised in the report were not new, said Mr. Lumina, they had been brought to the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but had not been addressed to the extent that was expected, partly due to resource constraints but mainly because it was a highly politicized issue.  The Independent Expert said that he was troubled by some countries which thought they had the solution to all the global problems; that attitude needed to change.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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