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These are contributions to the next Report of Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox on ‘good practices” about relationship between Human Rights and the Environmental Protection. Deadline: end of August

Introduction

The Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox was appointed by the HRC resolution 19/10, since August 2012 to:

•          Study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in consultation with relevant stakeholders;

•          Identify, promote and exchange views on best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations and commitments to inform, support and strengthen environmental policy making, especially in the area of environmental protection;

 

•          Prepare a compendium of best practices;

•          Make recommendations, consistent with his mandate, that could help the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular Goal 7; and to take into account the results of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) and to contribute a human rights perspective to follow-up processes.

How to contribute to his next report to the HRC in March 2015?

During the public consultation, IE has explained in detail, about his mandate, the reports he has already submitted to the previous UN HRC sessions in March 2013 & 2014 and outcome of various regional consultations organized during 2013-2014 to study the human rights obligations, including non-discrimination obligations, relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. He especially insisted about the states obligations relating to the environment, procedural and substantive obligations of States to assess environmental impacts on human rights and to make environmental information public, to facilitate participation in environmental decision-making, to provide access to remedies, to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against environmental harm that interferes with the enjoyment of human rights, including harm caused by private actors. States have additional obligations based on general requirement of non-discrimination in the application of environmental laws, particularly for the protection of members of groups in vulnerable situations, including women, children and indigenous peoples. (See more in the report prepared by Moy Hitchen, ERI). 

His next report to the HRC in March 2015 will be focused on cases collected on good practices. IE has to deliver his report latest by December, means his report will be finalized in September so although the deadline to respond to the questionnaire prepared for the collection of those good practices was the end of June 2014, John said he is still willing to get more information and cases of good practices if available, especially coming from CSO and FBOs, but those contributions should get to him the latest by end of August.

In particular, the IE is troubled by the many reports of failures to protect environmental human rights defenders as in many countries, EHRDs face a heightened risk of killings, attacks, threats and intimidation from State and non-State actors. He intends to examine good practices in this area in the hope of identifying exemplary models of effective protection.

All those cases and reports will be uploaded on e-database of the UN which is in construction and will be operational most probably in 2015.  He hopes that this e-database will provide an opportunity for the human rights and the environment communities to meet and exchange experiences, which in turn will lead to strengthened capacities to further promote synergies between human rights and the environment.

IE said that HR obligations relating to the environment are continuing to be developed in many forums, and the IE urges States to support their further development and clarification. But the obligations are already clear enough to provide guidance to States and all those interested in promoting and protecting human rights and environmental protection. His main recommendation, therefore, is that States and other stake-holders take these human rights obligations into account in the development and implementation of their environmental policies and their projects.

What are “Good practices”?

Generally, the term “good practice” is preferred to “best practice,” because in many situations, it is not possible to identify a single “best” approach.  The term “practice” is defined broadly, to include legislation, policies, strategies, case law, jurisprudential shifts, administrative practices, projects, and so forth, and would also include practices that go beyond established legal obligations related to the environment. They might include, for example, efforts to assist communities to participate in environmental decision-making beyond what environmental review laws may require, or even local laws that go beyond national legal obligations. Practices can be implemented by a wide range of actors, including all levels of government, civil society, the private sector, communities, and individuals.

So a good practice should focus on practices that help promote and guarantee the human rights of individuals, including vulnerable groups and EHRDs. For example, such practices may assist individuals especially vulnerable groups and also EHRDs to participate in environmental decision-making, gain access to relevant information, and provide them with opportunities for redress should their rights be violated, including at the national, regional and international levels.  Good practices can also focus on efforts by non-State actors in protecting the rights of EHRDs; groups in vulnerable situations, such as indigenous peoples, minorities, and women; and monitoring the situation of EHRDs, including information on violations of their human rights. 

Conclusion

You are invited to circulate this questionnaire (to be downloaded here) to our members, friends and partners who can share about their concrete “good practices” . If you know any interesting contribution please inform me as soon as possible!

 

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