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Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

Purpose of the mandate

The mandate on human rights and the environment exists to:

  • examine the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
  • promote best practices of the use of human rights in environmental policymaking
  • Identify challenges and obstacles to the global recognition and implementation of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
  • Conduct country visits and respond to human rights violations

Learn about why a healthy environment is integral to fully enjoying a wide range of human rights

About the mandate

The Human Rights Council established the mandate for the Independent Expert on human rights and the environment in 2012 (resolution 19/10). Mr. John Knox was appointed the first Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment for a three year term. His mandate was further extended in March 2015 as a Special Rapporteur for another three years (resolution 28/11). In March 2018, the Human Rights Council further extended the mandate (resolution 37/8) and appointed Mr. David. R. Boyd as the Special Rapporteur for three years. In March 2021 the Human Rights Council extended the mandate for another three years (resolution 46/7).

Learn what the Special Rapporteur is mandated to do, and see resolutions related to the environment

Current mandate holder

David R. Boyd

David R. Boyd is an associate professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia. He has a PhD in Resource Management and Environmental Studies from UBC, a law degree from the University of Toronto, and a business degree from the University of Alberta. His career has included serving as the executive director of Ecojustice, appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada, and working as a special advisor on sustainability for Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Read David R. Boyd's full biography

The Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

For the first time in its history, the United Nations has recognized that everyone, everywhere, has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Resolutions from the Human Rights Council in 2021 (A/HRC/RES/48/13) and the General Assembly in 2022 (A/RES/76/300)add this fundamental human right to the library of internationally recognized rights. As humanity confronts an unprecedented planetary crisis, it is our genuine hope that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment will serve as a catalyst for systemic and transformative changes to produce a just and sustainable future in harmony with nature.

Key Documents


A/HRC/37/59: Framework Principles
These 16 principles set out the basic obligations of States under human rights law as they relate to the enjoyment of a safe and healthy environment.


A/HRC/43/53: Good practices on the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
The Special Rapporteur provides a study on good practices in the implementation and promotion of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.


Materials on the substantive elements of the right to a healthy environment based on thematic reports to HRC and GA


Clean air
Summary of A/HRC/40/55 - Watch the video


Safe climate
Summary of A/74/161 - Watch the video


Healthy ecosystems and biodiversity
Summary of A/75/161 - Watch the video


Safe and sufficient water
Summary of A/HRC/46/28 - Watch the video


Healthy and sustainable food
Summary of A/76/179


Non-toxic environment
Summary of A/HRC/49/53


Recognition of the right to healthy environment
Summary of A/73/188 - Watch the video - Have a look at the factsheet


Latest thematic reports

Contact Information

Mr. David R. Boyd
Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
Palais des Nations, 8-14, Avenue de la Paix. 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
+41 22 917 9159
[email protected]
Follow @SRenvironment on Twitter

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Former mandate holder


Mr. John Knox
2012-2018