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Human rights and the environment: UN expert launches first fact-finding visit to Madagascar

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GENEVA (20 October 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, will undertake his first official visit to Madagascar from 25 to 31 October 2016 to assess how the country is protecting and promoting human rights relating to environmental protection.

“A healthy environment is essential for the enjoyment of human rights everywhere, but it is of the utmost importance for the protection of human rights in Madagascar, where so much of the population is rural and depends directly on the environment,” the expert stressed.

“I am looking forward to the visit to Madagascar as a treasure house of ecological diversity, and because it will help to inform my understanding of the relationship of the conservation of biological diversity and the protection of human rights,” said Mr. Knox, who is currently working on a year-long study* on biodiversity and human rights.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the Government of Madagascar has made important commitments to protect human rights related to the environment. Its Environmental Charter states that everyone has the fundamental right to live in a healthy and balanced environment, and specifically recognizes several rights such as rights to information, participation and access to justice as well as the impacts that environmental harm can have on social and economic aspects of life.

“I will assess, in particular, the lessons learned and challenges faced in the country with regard to realisation of environmental rights, as well as how it is addressing environmental challenges with human rights impacts such as climate change, deforestation, and the loss of biological diversity,” he said.

During his seven-day visit, at the invitation of the Government, the human rights expert will meet Government officials and experts, as well as representatives of civil society.

Mr. Knox will present his preliminary observations on the visit at a press conference on the last day of the mission, Monday 31 October at 11:30, in Salle de réunion Titan II, Maison Commune des Nations Unies, Zone Galaxy, Rue du Dr Raseta, Andraharo, Antananarivo 101. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2017.

(*) For more information, see:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/Biodiversity.aspx

The UN Human Rights Council appointed Mr. John H. Knox in 2012 to serve as Independent Expert, and reappointed him in 2015 as Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Council requested him, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United States, to clarify the application of human rights norms to environmental protection, and to identify best practices in the use of human rights obligations in environmental policy-making. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/SRenvironmentIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page – Madagascar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/MGIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
During the mission: Ms. Volahery Andriamanantenasoa (+261 32 23 100 60 / VAndriamanantenasoa@ohchr.org ) or Ms. Soo-Young Hwang (+41 79 752 0486 / shwang@ohchr.org) or write to srenvironment@ohchr.org 
Before and after the mission: Ms. Soo-Young Hwang (+41 22 917 9778 / shwang@ohchr.org) or write to srenvironment@ohchr.org 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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