World: Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on a healthy environment and on the right to food

Human Rights Council
MIDDAY

5 March 2018

Concludes Dialogue with Experts on Transitional Justice and on the Prevention of Genocide

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, John Knox, and with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, and the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

Presenting his last report to the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur, Mr. Knox highlighted the obligation of States to take into account the effects of proposed actions on children, facilitate the participation of children in environmental decision-making, and to ensure that the best interests of children were a primary consideration in all environmental decision-making. Presenting his report on 16 framework principles on human rights and the environment, Mr. Knox underlined that they did not create new legal obligations. Rather, they reflected the application of existing human rights obligations in the environmental context. The simplest way of expressing the interdependence of human rights and the environment was through the recognition of a human right to a healthy environment. More than 100 countries had already recognized that right in their national constitutions. Mr. Knox encouraged States to support the recognition of that right in a General Assembly resolution, or another global instrument. He spoke on his missions to Mongolia and Uruguay.

In her presentation, Ms. Elver provided an update on the right to food in conflict zones and presented the thematic report on the right to food in the context of natural disasters. She reminded that hunger affected 11 per cent of the global population and that it killed more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. Overall, high levels of acute food insecurity were faced by 108 million people across 48 countries. The thematic report highlighted that even though international food assistance had risen in response to escalating humanitarian crises, it still fell short of $ 3 billion. Almost all foreign aid currently supported short-term relief operations and there were barely any aid funds devoted to agricultural investment and rural development which could improve long-term food security. Though natural disasters created large-scale human suffering, no holistic multilateral disaster response treaty existed. She spoke about her trip to Zambia.

Mongolia and Uruguay spoke as concerned countries. Zambia did not take the floor as a concerned country.

In the ensuing discussion on the environment, speakers underlined that disasters and environmental pollution disproportionately affected the most vulnerable in societies, including the elderly, women, people with disabilities and children. Three million children died from environment-related causes and conditions; low-cost solutions, such as simple filtration and disinfection of water at household levels could dramatically reduce the risk of diarrhoea and disease. Speakers called for the recognition of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, and expressed concern about the arbitrary detention, repression of freedom of expression and even murder of environmental human rights defenders.

On the right to food, speakers reminded that natural and conflict-related disasters disproportionately affected the rural poor, over 75 per cent of whom derived their livelihood from agriculture. Food security should be addressed together with other related problems, including climate change. Relief funding should be geared towards the development of sustainable food security ecosystems, thereby improving the resilience and effectiveness of the relief effort in times of calamities. Everyone should remain committed to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture globally. Speakers appreciated the emphasis given to the need for reforms of the current food aid regime, and to true human rights-based solutions within the framework of food sovereignty.

Speaking were European Union, Costa Rica on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of a group of countries, Slovenia, Haiti, Pakistan, Egypt, Switzerland, Senegal, Philippines, Viet Nam, Madagascar, Togo, Cuba, France, China, Ethiopia, India, Greece, Venezuela, Malaysia, Iraq, Maldives, Iran, Costa Rica, Georgia, Peru, Indonesia, Botswana, Bolivia, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Turkey, Bangladesh, Ireland, Gabon, United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Nepal, State of Palestine, Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, and Azerbaijan.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Indian Council of South America, Asian Legal Resource Council, Franciscans International, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Human Rights Watch, Make Mothers Matter, International Federation Terre des Hommes, Earthjustice, Amnesty International, FIAN International, Song of Cheetah in Desert, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, World Barua Organization, and Organization for Defending Victims of Violence.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, and the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng. A summary of the discussion held on Friday, 2 March, can be read here.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. de Greiff said that the joint study had been carried out to strengthen the prevention mechanisms, but it also served as an invitation to Member States, other multilateral mechanisms and non-government organizations to conduct fundamental efforts in reinforcing prevention initiatives. It was important to think of every initiative as part of the overall prevention framework.

Mr. Dieng stated that the most effective way to analyze the situation on the ground was through the framework of analysis for atrocity crimes developed by the Special Adviser’s office. States could identify both strengths and weakness that would assist in developing a risk framework, and based on such analysis a comprehensive prevention framework could be developed.

In the discussion speakers expressed deep concern about gross human rights violations that undermined the potential of transitional justice mechanisms and the rule of law, mostly because of widespread impunity. They underlined the importance of a legal framework for the prevention of genocide, and of the universal ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Speaking in the discussion were International Commission of Jurists, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Centre for Global Nonkilling, and Association Internationale pour l’égalité des femmes.

Nepal and Indonesia spoke in a right of reply.

At 4 p.m., the Council will hold the second part of the annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, with a focus on protecting the rights of the child in humanitarian situations.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Recurrence, and the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide

International Commission of Jurists expressed deep concern about gross human rights violations that undermined the potential of transitional justice mechanisms and the rule of law, such as in Nepal. One of the main reasons was widespread impunity. International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) called on the Special Rapporteur to pay attention to the reality of occupied regions, such as Palestine and Kashmir. Turning to Yemen, it called for holding accountable those responsible for human rights violations and providing remedy to victims. Centre for Global Nonkilling underlined the importance of a legal framework for the prevention of genocide, and of the universal ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

International Association for Equality of women drew attention to the 1989 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, and underlined the right to remedy of the families. After nearly 30 years no investigation had been carried out by the Iranian authorities. It was high time that an international commission be established to bring justice to the victims.

Concluding Remarks

PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said that the joint study had been prepared to strengthen the prevention mechanisms, but it also served as an invitation to Member States, other multilateral mechanisms and non-government organizations to conduct fundamental efforts in reinforcing prevention initiatives. It was important to think of every initiative as part of the overall prevention framework. The Council could play a very important role in this framework, whether by including policies of access to education, access to health, fiscal policies, labour policies, as all those policies had been part of prevention framework. The United Nations was in a privileged position to convene the consultations that could upgrade the framework and the Council could assist in such endeavours. Member States were invited to take much more aggressive steps towards developing risk assessments.

ADAMA DIENG, Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the prevention of genocide, stated that the most effective way to analyse the situation on the ground in a certain country was through the framework of analysis for atrocity crimes developed by the Special Adviser’s office. States could identify both strengths and weaknesses that would assist in developing a risk framework, and based on such analysis a comprehensive prevention framework could be developed. In this endeavour, States had to be supported by the United Nations country teams and civil society organizations. The strengthening of the seven key inhibitors listed in the Secretary-General’s Responsibility to Protect should be the State’s responsibility. The work on the prevention was initiated under the former Secretary-General and would be continued under the current one. Cooperation was already established with the European Union and it was planned with the African Union as well in order to develop early warning systems. Finally, concerning the role of the Council in identifying atrocities crimes risk, the Universal Periodic Review could serve as an important mechanism.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on a Healthy and Sustainable Environment and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (A/HRC/37/58).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – mission to Uruguay (A/HRC/37/58/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – mission to Mongolia (A/HRC/37/58/Add.2)

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/HRC/37/61).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food – mission to Zambia (A/HRC/37/61/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on a Healthy and Sustainable Environment and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

JOHN KNOX, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in his last address to the Council as Special Rapporteur, noted that a healthy environment was necessary for the full enjoyment of human rights, and that the exercise of human rights was critical for the protection of a healthy environment. He reminded of the recent adoption of the text of a new treaty on the right to information, participation and access to justice in the environmental context by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and hailed it as one of the most important human rights treaties and one of the most important environmental treaties of the past 20 years. Turning to his report on children’s rights and the environment, Mr. Knox recalled that environmental harm interfered with a host of children’s rights, including their rights to life, health and development, food, housing, water and sanitation, play and recreation. States had to improve their development and dissemination of information about environmental hazards, and ensure that environmental impact assessment procedures took into account the effects of proposed actions on children. States should facilitate the participation of children in environmental decision-making, and should ensure that the best interests of children were a primary consideration in all environmental decision-making. States could begin by committing to implement the recommendations of expert agencies, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, which had recently issued detailed reports with examples of good practices on protecting children’s health and well-being from environmental harm.

Turning to his country visits, Mr. Knox said that Uruguay had made a truly remarkable commitment to renewable energy. Over the past decade, it had pursued a long-term strategy to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Its national energy plan had surpassed its original targets: over 90 per cent of its electricity now came from renewable resources. At the same time, Uruguay faced challenges. For example, as it increased its production of agriculture and livestock, it had to ensure that it protected its sources of drinking water from pollution from fertilizers, pesticides and cattle. As for Mongolia, its tradition of nomadic herding was under pressure from many directions, including overgrazing, climate change, and mining activities. Those pressures drove herders to urban areas. Mongolia was well aware of those issues and it had adapted environmental laws that included strong substantive standards. But implementation often lagged behind.

Finally, presenting his report on 16 framework principles on human rights and the environment, Mr. Knox noted that they did not create new legal obligations. Rather, they reflected the application of existing human rights obligations in the environmental context. For example, they stated that the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly applied to environmental issues, as did the right to information, public participation in decision-making and access to effective remedies. They provided that States’ duties to protect human rights defenders included environmental human rights defenders, who were working to protect the environment on which our human rights depended, often at great personal risk. On average, four were killed every week around the world. The framework principles made clear that the obligations of States to prohibit discrimination and to ensure equal and effective protection against discrimination applied in relation to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Perhaps the simplest way of expressing the interdependence of human rights and the environment was through the recognition of a human right to a healthy environment. More than 100 countries had already recognized that right in their national constitutions. Mr. Knox encouraged States to support the recognition of that right in a General Assembly resolution, or other global instrument. Recognition of the right to a healthy environment would not require a sea-change in human rights law; on the contrary, it would highlight what had already become clear: all human beings deserved to live in an environment that enabled them to enjoy their human rights.

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, provided an update on the right to food in conflict zones and presented the thematic report on the right to food in the context of natural disasters. Hunger affected 815 million people or 11 per cent of the global population, and it killed more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined. In Yemen 17.8 million people were food insecure and 1.8 million children were acutely malnourished. In South Sudan 48 per cent of the population had experienced severe food insecurity. In North East Nigeria 2.6 million people were food insecure. In Syria the starvation and surrender tactics aggravated the conditions of civilians. Overall, high levels of acute food insecurity were faced by 108 million people across 48 countries. Her thematic report highlighted that even though international food assistance had risen in response to escalating humanitarian crises, it still fell short of $ 3 billion. Almost all foreign aid currently supported short-term relief operations and there were barely any aid funds devoted to agricultural investment and rural development which could improve long-term food security. The number of climate-related disasters had doubled in the past decade and there were on average 334 events annually. The Food Assistance Convention of 2012 was the only legally binding treaty for donor countries to address the nutritional needs of the vulnerable in emergency situations. Though natural disasters created large-scale human suffering, no holistic multilateral disaster response treaty existed. The World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 was ground breaking, as it had encouraged more flexible funding, greater local ownership and greater accountability.

Reporting on her visit to Zambia, Ms. Elver said that 55 per cent lived below the poverty line. An alarming 40 per cent of children under 5 years of age in Zambia were stunted. The country was blessed with rich fertile lands and water resources. The Government had adopted a range of policies to improve its agricultural sector, but it needed additional efforts to reach diversified and protective policies that would prioritize rural development, while supporting export oriented production. A general legal framework law on the right to adequate food had to be adopted. The current dual land tenure system lacked protection mechanisms to secure access to land for smallholder farmers. It was recommended that Zambia adopt a gender-sensitive, inclusive national land policy and establish an effective monitoring mechanism.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Mongolia, speaking as a concerned country, appreciated a number of recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, which were in line with its national priorities and programmes. Mongolia was fully committed to meeting its international human rights obligations. However, much remained to be done. In that sense, Mongolia appreciated international cooperation, capacity building and technical assistance.

Uruguay, speaking as a concerned country, said that it had supported the link between human rights and the environment, and particularly the right to information, internationally. It would continue to be active in the area of chemicals and waste, especially with respect to the rights of children. The conclusions and recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur would doubtlessly help Uruguay to develop public policies aimed at ensuring the enjoyment of human rights in a safe and clean environment.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union said it had provided for some of the highest environmental standards in legislation and practice, and asked the Special Rapporteur on this issue what were the most pertinent issues he could address in the future. A clear connection existed between natural disasters and food insecurity affecting millions of people, and almost one third of the humanitarian budget of the European Union was for the provision of food. Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that millions of children around the world suffered the consequences of environmental degradation, and urged all States to strengthen environmental protection practices. States members of the group were strongly committed to the development of public policies aimed at children’s’ access to environmental education programmes and their participation in decision-making. Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the report on the impact of the environment on the rights of the child, and said that annually, 600,000 children died from environment-related pollution and 350,000 died from diarrhoea, unhealthy water, and the use of chemical products and other wastes. Togo called upon States to promote in practice the right to food and to a healthy and sustainable environment.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking also on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas and Haiti, said that the survival of the Caribbean islands was threatened by environmental degradation and climate change, and the priority was to preserve the environment through sustainable practices. A truly global response was needed to address environmental concerns. Slovenia praised the Special Rapporteur on environment for laying down the groundwork in this area over the last six years, and shared his view that children were particularly vulnerable to the effects of environmental harm. What were the biggest gaps and challenges in the implementation of the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of clean, safe and healthy environment? Haiti took note of the impact of environmental damage on the rights of the child, and asked the Special Rapporteur what were the easiest and the most difficult of the five recommendations he had outlined in his report. Regarding the right to food, Haiti, which currently presided the Caribbean Community, urged the establishment of a new funding mechanism to enable the region to recover rapidly from natural disasters and increase its resilience to climate change. Pakistan recognized the links between childhood exposure to the pollutants and disabilities and premature mortality, and had introduced policies and legislation aimed at protecting the rights of the child in a comprehensive manner. Its judiciary was abreast of the challenges posed by climate change, and it was addressing the human rights obligations in this regard.

On the right to food, human-generated climate change highly impacted food production and food security and particularly affected the children.

Egypt said that, in light of the ever-deteriorating vulnerability to climate change, particularly of children, Egypt stressed the responsibility of developed countries to increase the level of cooperation and make sure that developing countries could adapt to and lessen the impacts of climate change. Climate change also had impact on the enjoyment of the right to food, particularly for children and older people. Switzerland agreed that businesses had to protect the rights of children against the environmental damages caused by their companies, and appealed to all companies to apply the Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights. On the right to food, Switzerland asked what the international community should do to further promote the resilience of vulnerable communities and set up resilient food systems. Senegal welcomed the links between the rights of the child and environmental deterioration and urged all States to step up efforts to ensure that the rights of children were protected in this context. As for the right to food, Senegal had a Food Security Strategy in place and warned that the most developed countries could not cope alone with ensuring food security in the context with natural disasters.

Philippines was proud of its Environmental Awareness Education Act, and the setting up of water quality management areas; its Free Irrigation Service Act exempted small-scale farmers from paying irrigation service fees. Viet Nam had adopted the Law on Disaster Prevention and Control in 2013 and established the Fund for Disaster Prevention and Control; last year, over 40,000 tons of food had reached people in need, but more global support in tackling climate change impacts was essential. Madagascar was one of the four countries most vulnerable to climate change impact – the South and South West area were particularly affected by the El Niño phenomenon causing drought. The absence of rainfall had devastating consequence for agriculture, leaving 850,000 persons affected by hunger.

Climate change was a unique threat for the survival and health of children, said Togo, and urged States to redouble their efforts to protect children in the context of climate change, and also do their utmost to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Cuba appreciated the work of the two Special Rapporteurs and underscored that Cuba was affected by numerous weather phenomena. It had always put emphasis on the protection of life, and it shared its good practices in disaster risk reduction with other countries. France reminded that environmental damage led to the death of 1.5 million children under the age of five annually, which was why environmental protection was one of its priorities. With regard to the right to food, France stressed the crucial importance of the resilience of the most vulnerable in light of natural disasters and asked how local populations could be better included in drafting sustainable disaster risk management strategies.

China said that protecting the environment was the only way to protect human rights and it was working on an international consensus to tackle climate change; on the national level, China stressed solutions for environmental problems and renewable energy approaches. Food was a vital right of humanity as a whole, stressed China and urged developed countries and the United Nations to help developing countries to improve their food producing capabilities and eliminate hunger. Ethiopia agreed that children were among the most vulnerable to climate change and said that the right to a clean and healthy environment for all was enshrined in its Constitution. Ethiopia strongly believed in the necessity of having international and regional cooperative mechanisms to ensure the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. India stated that relief funding to deal with hunger should be geared towards the development of sustainable food security ecosystems, thereby improving the resilience and effectiveness of the relief effort in times of calamities.

Greece said the fight against the direct effects of the environment on human rights required the implication of not just the State but of the society as a whole. Children were among the most vulnerable to environmental hazards, and this silent pandemic must be countered through the collective engagement on the Paris Agenda and the Agreement on Climate Change. Venezuela agreed that food security should be addressed together with other related problems, including climate change, and that those were the priority issues. Despite the economic war imposed by outside, Venezuela concentrated on fighting poverty, ensuring food security and focusing on rural areas and policies of solidarity abroad. Malaysia felt that the greatest contribution of both reports was that they underscored how disasters and environmental pollution disproportionately affected the most vulnerable in societies, including the elderly, women, people with disabilities and children. Malaysia agreed that promoting best practices in ensuring the right to food during natural disasters required the involvement of many parties well beyond the Human Rights Council.

Iraq said an environment where peace and security prevailed was the main pillar that would enable countries to give more attention to food security. The world could not overlook the impact of climate change, nor the lack of suitable technology for food security. Improving access and public investment in rural development was a way to eradicate poverty, including through private investment in technology. Maldives, as a country most impacted by climate change, was saddened that children were the least responsible for climate change and yet the most vulnerable to it. The Maldives had launched programmes in this regard, including the Voice for the Oceans Programme which raised youth awareness on the protection of the oceans. Iran stressed the role of low-cost solutions such as simple filtration and disinfection of water at the household level, in dramatically reducing the risk of diarrhoea and disease. Iran urged all States to remain committed to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture globally.

Costa Rica urged States to increase their compliance with their obligations and take measures to protect children from environmental damage. Through his work, the Special Rapporteur had created a doctrine that linked human rights to the environment and it was hoped that the next mandate holder would continue the development of best practices. Georgia was undertaking active measures to implement a legal framework on environmental standards that were in children’s best interest, and was implementing a nationwide project to formalize a comprehensive database of eco-migrants. Peru had adopted a national environmental action plan and policies linking human rights and environment. Peru stressed that the 16 Framework Principles on Human Rights and Environment had to be implemented globally. Indonesia referred to the protection of women after the 2004 tsunami in Aceh province mentioned in the report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and said that in a sudden natural catastrophe of such magnitude, the distribution of food assistance would pose a great challenge everywhere and not only in Aceh.

Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs

JOHN KNOX, Special Rapporteur on the issues of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in answer to the question on future directions of the mandate, said that the norms were clear enough and it was no longer necessary to devote as much time to clarify them; the primary priority going forward therefore should be the implementation and developing good practices. Two areas deserved attention – the first was the relationship of business practices with environmental effects on human rights, where a more systematic approach to responsibilities of businesses would be of value. The second area that deserved more attention was the discriminatory effects of environmental harm, as it had disproportionate impact on those who were already vulnerable and marginalized. In terms of the biggest gaps and challenges, Mr. Knox singled out the continuing failure to adequately protect environmental human rights defenders, noting with alarm that on average, four were killed every week and countless more suffered violence, harassments and threats. States must do more to protect them and ensure that they were not part of the problem by detaining, for example the human rights defenders who were simply drawing attention to a problem; human rights defenders should be viewed as allies to States and not as enemies.

Asked about the easiest and hardest of his recommendations to implement, the Special Rapporteur said that those varied from one State to another, and said that all States should find it possible to broaden their environmental impact procedures to take into greater account of their impact on children. Some States would find it difficult how to include children in decision-making, and the Special Rapporteur noted the guidance by the Committee on the Rights of the Child on how to include children decision making in various issues that concerned them. This was another example on how sharing good practices in this regard would be beneficial to States. On cross-cutting work between special procedures, the Special Rapporteur noted that environment cut across practically all other mandates, and said that the new initiative called the Environmental Rights Initiative would be announced on 6 March which would provide more opportunities for working together.

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that putting in place a more comprehensive and cooperative food assistance system that would ease the effects of disaster affected areas, especially on the vulnerable, was very important. Donor countries often focused on the support during and post-disasters, and generally neglected disaster preparations, even if the investment in preparedness reduced the impact of disasters and sometimes helped avoid it altogether. Disaster preparedness was a very effective way to deal with disasters. There were resources available to aid disaster preparedness, for example the disaster risk assessments by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, and others. In this regard, resilience building was extremely important, and consequently, prior infrastructure investment. The world was becoming increasingly urban, said the Special Rapporteur and remarked that the countries had to deal with both rural infrastructure and the rural to urban move.

Rich countries had the resources to rebuild and poor countries did not, remarked Ms. Elver, and stressing the importance of funding, urged the search for new ways of dealing with the funding problem. The human rights-based approach had to be a primary principle of resilience building, she stressed and said that the Special Rapporteurs must work on interpreting the responsibilities of the international community in this regard, especially as it was much vaguer than that of States, and more voluntary than mandatory. A clear guidance from the Human Rights Council had to be made in this respect in order to help initiate such a proposal with the Economic and Social Council, said the Special Rapporteur and concluded by emphasizing the critical role of cooperation, coordination and funding in disaster preparedness.

Interactive Dialogue

Botswana agreed that educational programmes had to be used to help children have a better understanding of the environment. Botswana had suffered from persistent droughts, erratic rainfall, heatwaves and floods which continued to undermine efforts towards the attainment of food security. Bolivia affirmed that the right to food was a collective right, needed for strengthening communities and promoting the principle of food security. The Declaration on the Rights of Peasants would help in protecting the rights of this sector and international companies had to abide by protecting human rights principles. Sudan said it had adopted a law on food security and a Presidential Council had been set up to monitor the implementation. Sudan was being subjected to unilateral coercive measures, which had a significant impact on food security.

Burkina Faso noted that with increasing floods and droughts, greater attention must be paid to enhancing the resilience of the communities which had been affected the most. The national council and the appropriate action plans had been set up in Burkina Faso to address those priorities. Djibouti was faced with El-Nino phenomenon, which, combined with drought, had been leading to the loss of cattle as well as to a rural exodus and the creation of slums in cities. What multilateral instrument could be devised to tackle humanitarian emergencies worldwide, was there an example?

Turkey underlined the importance of the right to food, given a recent radical increase of the number of people affected by hunger. The right to food obliged States to implement protective measures and food security measures. Bangladesh stressed that the hard earned development gains of climate vulnerable countries constrained their capacity to implement human rights obligations. The international community should consider the negotiation of a comprehensive, multilateral treaty to respond to disaster situations in a coordinated and effective manner. Ireland noted that the right to food was a priority for the Irish Government and people, adding that conflict was a major driver of hunger. However, climate change exacerbated crises for the poor, making the recovery harder.

Gabon stated that climate change and natural disaster had a particularly negative impact on the production of food, quality of water, deforestation and disappearance of species. Women and children suffered particularly from those negative impacts. United Nations Environment Programme said it would continue to promote the integration of human rights concerns into environmental decision-making and to raise awareness on the interconnection between human rights, including the rights of the child, and the environment. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimated that losses from natural disasters were at a staggering $ 250 to 300 billion a year. Natural and conflict-related disasters disproportionately affected the rural poor, over 75 per cent of whom derived their livelihood from agriculture.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe said that enabling individuals, civil society, local communities, children, and other vulnerable groups to exercise their right to information, to participate in decision-making and to access justice remained critical in addressing environmental challenges.

Nepal said it attached high priority to the protection of the environment. The world was an ecosystem which suffered from those who polluted the most. Those had the responsibility to clean the environment. The maintenance of proper balance was crucial. Climate change had a serious bearing on the impact on the enjoyment of the right to food. State of Palestine said the Israeli occupying power continued dumping illegal toxic substances on the Palestinian territories. After 10 years of an Israeli-led blockade of Gaza, a high level of dangerous and toxic metals in the soil had been found, causing serious birth defects, and cancer in children. What measures could be undertaken to hold this occupying power accountable? Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, commended all efforts to improve the protection of children from environmental impact, but said more serious steps had to be taken since the most serious environmental problems were cross-border problems. Referring to the right to food, it warned that donor countries must not make use of catastrophes to impose their beliefs on the suffering States. A rights based approach must be followed in this respect. Azerbaijan said the international community had long recognized the rights of children, and the ways in which environmental harm impacted their development. A lot was being done in raising awareness on environmental issues, including at the primary and pre-school education levels.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc said in Bahrain, the area around the village of Ma’ameer was known for its large industrial complex in which much of Bahrain’s petroleum refinement was centered, along with a number of large factories that handled petrochemicals, concrete and asphalt. Indian Council of South America said the right to self-determination was directly linked to the right to food. Article 1.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that in no case could a people be deprived of their right to subsistence. In this regard, it was necessary for the Special Rapporteur on the right to food put a chapter on the right to self-determination.

Asian Legal Resource Centre agreed that hunger had killed more people than epidemics and terrorism together. Regrettably, in Asian countries the failure to recognize the right to food as an integral human right, and the lack of adequate policies resulted in striking consequences, particularly in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Franciscans International, in a joint statement, drew the Council’s attention to the malnutrition in West Papua where hundreds of children under five had died. The Government of Indonesia had taken steps to address the crisis but more comprehensive measures were needed, including the visit of the Special Rapporteur to West Papua. Friends World Committee for Consultation - Quakers said that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was the highest in at least 3 million years. What steps could the Council take to further the global recognition of a right to a healthy environment?

Human Rights Watch, in a joint statement, expressed concern that the Council’s steps thus far were inadequate to fully address what was needed for the protection of human rights. Environmental human rights defenders were killed every week, millions of people were denied clean air and water, and deforestation and biodiversity loss were unabated. Make Mothers Matter welcomed the report’s focus on early childhood and warned that environmental damage in a prenatal period could impair a child’s future development. States were called on to adopt a mother and child based approach to the environment. International Federation Terre des Hommes noted that States had heightened obligations to protect children from environmental harm and should ensure that children’s views were taken into account. Member States were called to implement the recommendations issued by the Special Rapporteur.

Earthjustice joined the call for the recognition of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, and it expressed concern about the arbitrary detention, repression of freedom of expression and even murder of environmental human rights defenders. Amnesty International said that formal recognition of the right to a healthy and sustainable environment would provide a clearer framework for individuals and communities to defend their environmental rights and seek accountability for any violations. The Council had a central responsibility in promoting global recognition of that right. FIAN International appreciated the emphasis given to the need for reforms of the current food aid regime, and to true human rights-based solutions within the framework of food sovereignty.

Song of Cheetah in Desert noted that the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Iran had seriously affected both the people and the environment, depriving the country from access to green and modern technologies. It called on the Council to urge the Special Procedures to study the negative consequences of the sanctions on Iran’s environment. International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) drew attention to the plight of those people living under occupation, particularly those living in camps in Kashmir. Natural disasters added to their suffering. The people of Yemen, especially children, suffered from food shortage. What kind of pressure could be asserted so that humanitarian assistance could reach those people? World Barua Organization stressed that the equal distribution of food was the crux of the global problem of hunger and malnutrition. India’s casual approach to the right to food was exemplified by its neglect for the issue of food distribution. Organization for Defending Victims of Violence warned that the construction of an illicit dam in Turkey, on Tigris and Euphrates, which violated United Nations conventions, would cause an environmental disaster. Consequences would be felt not only in Turkey but also in Iraq and Iran, causing tensions across the region.

Concluding Remarks

JOHN KNOX, Special Rapporteur on the issues of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in response to a question from Palestine, said that the Basel Convention governed transboundary trade, so answer had to be sought there. The human rights law in relation to the environment was at this stage familiar enough, though further acknowledgment was welcomed. In order to further the role of the Council in the promotion of the right to a healthy environment, it was suggested to organize a seminar where countries could share best practices and their experiences. The Council could adopt a resolution on the right to a healthy environment, but the greater value would be if the General Assembly would adopt such a resolution, having in mind its wide membership. When renewing the mandate, it would be good to include that the Special Rapporteur had to report to the General Assembly as well as the Council, providing another avenue for discussion.

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, thanked Bolivia for emphasizing that the right to food was a collective right. The questions of Burkina Faso and Djibouti concerning the comprehensive multilateral instrument were addressed, saying that the human rights approach and the question of responsibility had to be invoked globally, as opposed to the current charity approach. The accountability mechanism was extremely important, keeping in mind that humanitarian assistance was very hard to track, with a plethora of actors on the ground.

Right of Reply

Nepal, speaking in a right of reply, stated that civil society was an important partner in the protection and promotion of human rights. The Government of Nepal consulted and involved non-governmental organizations in that respect, but it was dismayed by a comment made by a civil society organization, which lacked in factual foundation. To fully address the issue of transitional justice, the Government had extended the terms of the National Commission for the Missing Persons to ensure justice and accountability. Nepal did not condone impunity.

Indonesia, speaking in a right of reply, clarified the situation in the regions of Asmat and West Papua with respect to the provision of healthcare and food. Remote areas posed their own challenges. But the Government had taken immediate short-term and medium-term steps to improve the situation, namely it had dispatched rapid flying teams to provide healthcare and food supplies to the affected areas, paying special attention to women and children.

For use of the information media; not an official record

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