Statement in Support of the Independent Expert on Human Rights and Environment

March 11, 2014


Dr. Marcos A. Orellana from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) presented a statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council during the interactive dialogue that followed the second report by Professor John Knox, the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. The statement was delivered on behalf of CIEL, Earthjustice, FIAN International, Greenpeace Int’l, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists and FIDH.


We welcome the mapping report of the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. It demonstrates, on the basis of normative evidence, the existence, scope and content of procedural and substantive human rights obligations with respect to environmental protection.

This mandate must be seen against the environmental crisis and inequity affecting our planet and the daily lives of so many people. The Council has recognized that the realization of human rights depends on a healthy environment.

We encourage the Council to recognize the right to a healthy environment as a freestanding right. The recognition of this right would help to strengthen accountability and understanding of the consequences for human rights of environmental damage. The right to a healthy environment would also help to preserve the ecosystems we depend upon as well as the achievement of sustainable development.

We also welcome the careful treatment of extraterritorial obligations and the Maastricht Principles. ETOs are central to addressing the negative impacts on human rights beyond national borders.

The Independent Expert has also followed-up on Rio+20. At UN Headquarters he underlined the key role of human rights and the environment in the design of sustainable development goals. In the Latin America and the Caribbean process towards an instrument on rights of access to information, participation and justice regarding environmental issues, he analyzed the advantages to adopting a right to a healthy environment.

We further welcome the report’s emphasis on the dire situation of environmental rights defenders. States must do more to safeguard the lives and personal integrity of individuals who defend the environment.

To conclude, Mr. President, we welcome progress on this critical mandate, and we urge the Council to embrace the Independent Expert’s recommendations.