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UN Human Rights Council Adopts Historic Resolution on Human Rights and the Environment

A statement by Crude Accountability and EcoForum of NGOs, Kazakhstan

The United Nations held its 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland from February 26-March 23rd, and as a result, adopted a historic new resolution on human rights and the environment.

As environmental pollution and climate change degrade the environment around the world, risks for environmental defenders are also increasing in countries all over the globe. The nexus of human rights and environment becomes ever more important as many human rights are simply not achievable without environmental protections, without fair access to natural resources, and without their sustainable use.

Crude Accountability and EcoForum of NGOs Kazakhstan welcome the adoption of the new resolution, which includes a point on the persecution of environmental defenders, who are on the frontline of defending our planet at great personal risk to their life, health, and security. Without their efforts, the chances of protecting our planet would be merely illusory.

The tradition of global solidarity among environmental NGOs in response to the illegal and unfair punishment, harassment, and threats made against them protects the interests of the public in protection of the environment and participation in environmentally significant decision-making. The new resolution of the HRC gives us hope that environmental defenders will be able to continue to protect our planet.

It is also critical that the resolution lengthened the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights on the issue of human rights obligations to include the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for three years. The work of the Special Rapporteur to ensure continuous communication between activities on human rights and environmental protection ensures that environmental rights will be a public priority.

Crude Accountability and Ecoforum of NGOs of Kazakhstan are grateful to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox, for his work to protect environmental rights and his openness to working with environmental civil society organizations.

In 2017, Crude Accountability, together with Ecoforum of NGOs Kazakhstan, presented a report Dangerous Work: Increasing Pressure on Environmental NGOs and Activists in the Countries of the Former Soviet Union and the U.S. The report is devoted to environmentalists who have been or continue to be persecuted in the countries of the former Soviet Union and in the U.S. for their work to protect everyone’s right to a healthy environment. We urge governments and international organizations immediately to declare unacceptable all acts of repression against environmental defenders and to take steps to protect their rights.