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General call for contributions on the consequences of exposure of indigenous people to toxic and otherwise hazardous substances

The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 36/15 will dedicate his 2020 report to the UN General Assembly to examining the consequences of exposure of indigenous people all around the world to toxic and otherwise hazardous substances.

The report will be preceded by a study on the same subject, which he intends to present to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in April 2019. At its 16th session, the Forum invited the Special rapporteur to carry out a review within his mandated area of expertise and to present conclusions to the Forum. 

The Special Rapporteur invites States, civil society actors and all other relevant stakeholders to provide inputs towards the preparation of his reports through replying to this Questionnaire.

The replies will inform the Special Rapporteur’s analytical work and feed into the observations, which will be reported to the General Assembly in the autumn of 2020.

Responses to the questionnaire can be sent no later than 15 February 2019 to srtoxicwaste@ohchr.org (preferred option) or addressed to:

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Attn.: Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics

Fax: +41 22 917 9006.

Unless otherwise requested, all submissions will be posted on the OHCHR webpage of the mandate.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Lilit Nikoghosyan or Mr. Alvin Gachie, Human Rights Officers, who are supporting the mandate at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  (+41-22-917-9936 or +41-22-917-9971, lnikoghosyan@ohchr.org, agachie@ohchr.org).

Questions: For States / specialized NGOs:

  1. What rights of indigenous peoples are recognized in your country?  
  2.  How are these rights realized in law and practice? Which are the specific provisions that the Government and business enterprises have to follow in order to protect and fulfil the rights of indigenous peoples, especially during the realization of projects directly affecting their basic human rights and their livelihood. 
  3. How are risks to indigenous rights from pollution/contamination are integrated in environmental, social and/or human rights impact assessments?
  4. How does the Government ensure the accessibility and availability of information regarding pollution and contamination in indigenous lands and territories?  What monitoring is in place for indigenous communities regarding actual and potential contamination of water, air and food, human exposure levels, and associated health impacts?  For which hazardous substances is such monitoring in place?
  5. Are indigenous communities in your country sufficiently consulted and listened to at the outset of undertakings that might affect their lives and health in terms of exposure to toxic substances?  Please describe the procedures and practices for consultation and prior informed consent.
  6. Please bring examples of situations and cases, which have had a direct and considerable impact on the health, economic activity and cultural rights of indigenous communities because of hazardous substances and wastes, including cases involving oil and gas, mining of metals/minerals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, energy generation, and all forms of waste.
  7. What are the existing mechanisms to provide access to justice and effective remedies to indigenous communities whose lives have been impacted by exposure to hazardous substances and wastes? Are there clearly formulated legal obligations for state authorities and enterprises to provide with effective remedies? What challenges are faced and what efforts have been made to improve access to justice and remedies? 
  8. Do environmental laws/policies in your country require environmental remediation?  If so, do they include environmental health assessments? How are these funded?
  9. Which instruments (legal and other) exist in order to ensure protection of indigenous rights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure etc., as a consequence of their activities in general or specifically in the context of pollution or contamination?
  10. Are health services available for indigenous peoples in your country?  If so, what kind of services are available?  How are health emergencies managed?   Are those services able to diagnose and manage exposure to toxic substances?

 Questions specifically designed to indigenous peoples / communities:

  1. Is your indigenous community (or one that you represent) suffering adverse impacts of hazardous substances and toxic wastes?  Please describe the case and circumstances in detail, including the source of the pollution/contamination, the types of hazardous substances, the degree of consultation and consent to relevant activities, and efforts made and challenges faced to access effective remedies.
  2. What are the adverse impacts – economic, social, cultural, on health, livelihoods etc. – that your community is suffering from those substances?
  3. Is the government implementing a right to free, prior and informed consent with regards to the substances reversed on your lands / territories?
  4. Is the company involved implementing dialogue concerning those substances and their consequences with you?
  5. Have you tried to take action (either legal action, advocacy campaign, etc.) to raise awareness on the issue and/or to stop the issue or get compensation?