First report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes to the General Assembly

A girl wearing a mask over her mouth and nose looks out from her balcony in village of Beloomut on July 31, 2010. Hundreds of thousands of firefighters, including army troops, battled forest fires raging across central Russia in the worst heatwave for decades, destroying houses and killing more than 30 people. A total of 238,000 firefighters are battling the flames in 14 regions, along with 226 aircraft, the emergency ministry said Saturday, calling the situation under control. © AFP PHOTO/ ANDREY SMIRNOV Today, the evidence has grown that the vast majority of the global population lives on the wrong side of a toxic divide.  For over 20 years, the mandate on human rights and toxics (formerly toxic waste) has reported to the UN Human Rights Council on human rights violations arising from toxic pollution. Given the need for stronger action at the global level, the mandate was requested in 2017 to begin reporting on the issue to the UN General Assembly.

In his first report to the U.N. General Assembly (A/73/567), the Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics introduces the mandate, highlights recent activities and offers recommendations for ongoing international discussions. The Special Rapporteur explains the link between the mandate and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and brings to the fore the need for a stronger, more comprehensive global framework to protect human health from a toxic environment to help address the injustices resulting from divergent standards of protection between countries.

The Special Rapporteur offers recommendations for strengthening the ability of the global community to protect human rights from toxic exposures, and highlights the potential contribution of the business and human rights discourse to the issues at hand.

Opening remarks by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak at the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly – New York, 25 October 2018
Watch the videos of the Special Rapporteur’s presentation and press conference.

The Special Rapporteur also hosted an inaugural side event in New York, co-organised with the Government of Sweden, to further unfold the impacts of toxic pollution through the lens of human rights, and discuss potential solutions to these impacts. The panel discussed pressing issues related workers’ rights, childhood exposure, and the need for greater ambition at the international level to protect everyone’s human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, just conditions of work, and a healthy environment.