UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution on Human Rights and Environment, establishes an Independent Expert on the issue

27 March 2012

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution on Human Rights and Environment that establishes an Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.

The resolution was adopted on 20 March 2012 at conclusion of 19th session of the Council. Maldives, Costa Rica and Switzerland tabled the resolution and the Council adopted it by consensus, with more than 80 States co-sponsoring.

The resolution crystallizes efforts over many years from many quarters.  It establishes an institutional vehicle to advance the linkages between Human Rights and the Environment.  It is expected that this new Special Procedure will lay the basis for the Council’s recognition of a universal right to a healthy environment.  We have much work to do in the coming three years to achieve this strategic objective.

The resolution appoints the Expert for a period of three years to study human rights obligations, including non-discrimination obligations, relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in consultation with all stakeholders including those representing indigenous peoples and other persons in vulnerable situations. That is to identify, promote and exchange views on 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 and make recommendations that could help the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

The resolution includes direct and explicit reference to Rio+20.  For example, it mandates the IE to: “(d) To take into account the results of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, and to contribute a human rights perspective to follow-up processes.”  The resolution also, “Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in order to promote a human rights perspective.”

Click here to see the full resolution.

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