Outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox, presented 16 framework principles on the right to a healthy environment.
Speaking on the right to food in the context of natural disasters and conflict, Special Rapporteur Hilal Elver presented a thematic report on the right to food in the context of natural disasters.
5 March 2018: An interactive dialogue at the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council discussed progress reports and recommendations from two UN Special Rapporteurs covering human rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and the right to food.
Outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox, presented 16 framework principles that: summarize the main human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; and provide guidance for the practical implementation of these obligations. Noting that more than 100 countries have recognized the right to a healthy environment in their national constitutions, Knox encouraged States to support the recognition of that right in a General Assembly resolution, or another global instrument. Knox also highlighted a related report exploring how environmental harm interferes with the ability of children to enjoy their rights and discusses the obligations of States to take measures to protect children from such interference.
Describing some actions taken at the country level, Knox recognized Mongolia’s efforts to adapt its environmental laws to combat threats to traditional nomadic livelihood systems, but expressed concern that “implementation often lagged behind.” Knox also singled out Uruguay’s “truly remarkable commitment to renewable energy,” over the past decade, noting the country had surpassed its original targets with over 90% of electricity generation coming from renewable resources. During the discussions on this topic, speakers underlined that disasters and environmental pollution disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in societies and expressed concern about the arbitrary detention, repression of freedom of expression, and even murder of environmental human rights defenders. The need for formal recognition of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment was emphasized, as it would provide a clearer framework for individuals and communities to defend their environmental rights and seek accountability for any violations.
Hunger affects 11% of the global population and kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
Speaking on the right to food in the context of natural disasters and conflict, Special Rapporteur Hilal Elver noted that hunger affects 11% of the global population and kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. Elver presented a thematic report on the right to food in the context of natural disasters. It highlights that despite a doubling of climate-related disasters in the past decade, most foreign aid continues to be directed towards short-term relief operations with little support for agriculture and rural development, which could improve long-term food security. In this regard, Elver highlighted the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit as a ground-breaking event due to its focus on encouraging more flexible funding, local ownership, and greater accountability for disaster support.
Elver recalled her visit to Zambia, stating an alarming 40% of children under five years of age were stunted, despite the abundance of fertile land and water resources. She called for more efforts to reach diversified and protective government policies that would prioritize rural development and secure access to land for smallholder farmers. Discussions on this topic called for better integration of food security with climate change, and a greater focus on developing sustainable food security ecosystems to improve the resilience and effectiveness of the relief effort in times of calamities. The need to reform the current food aid regime and explore true human rights-based solutions within the framework of food sovereignty were also highlighted. Responding to calls for a comprehensive multilateral instrument on the right to food, Elver stressed the importance of a global accountability mechanism “as opposed to the current charity approach,” bearing in mind that humanitarian assistance was very hard to track, with a plethora of actors on the ground.
The 37th Session of the Human Rights Council is taking place from 26 February to 23 March 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. [OCHCR Press Release on the Interactive Dialogue Session] [Publication: Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment] [Meeting Website]