Safeguarding Virunga and Promoting the Realization of Human Rights Obligations go Hand-in-Hand

Read here the conclusions and recommendations from 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. In this report the Special Rapporteur, John H. Knox, describes the importance of ecosystem services and biodiversity for the full enjoyment of human rights and outlines the application of human rights obligations to biodiversity-related actions.

65. Biodiversity is necessary for ecosystem services that support the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and culture. In order to protect human rights, States have a general obligation to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.

66. Biodiversity around the world is rapidly being degraded and destroyed, with grave and far-reaching implications for human well-being. A human rights perspective:

  • Helps to clarify that the loss of biodiversity also undermines the full enjoyment of human rights;
  • Heightens the urgent need to protect biodiversity;
  • Helps to promote policy coherence and legitimacy in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

67. Procedurally, States should:

  • Assess the social and environmental impacts of all proposed projects and policies that may affect biodiversity;
  • Provide public information about biodiversity, including environmental and social assessments of proposals, and ensure that the relevant information is provided to those affected in a language that they understand;
  • Provide for and facilitate public participation in biodiversity-related decisions;
  • Provide access to effective remedies for the loss and degradation of biodiversity.

68. States should recognize that defenders of biodiversity are also human rights defenders, and implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on providing a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders in general (see, e.g., A/HRC/25/55) and for environmental human rights defenders in particular (see A/71/281).

69. Substantively, every State should establish legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of biodiversity that:

  • Regulate harm to biodiversity from private actors as well as government agencies;
  • Adopt and implement standards that accord with international standards, are non-retrogressive and non-discriminatory, and respect and protect the rights of those who are particularly vulnerable to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

70. States have adopted agreements and initiatives to protect biodiversity, including a comprehensive strategic plan for 2011-2020 under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, States are not on track to meet the targets in the strategic plan. States should redouble their efforts to achieve the targets, including by ensuring that their national biodiversity strategies and action plans reflect the necessary scope and ambition. Donor States and organizations should increase support to ensure that all States have the capacity to meet the targets, and safeguards should ensure that biodiversity-related projects do not violate human rights.

71. States must do more to respect and protect the rights of those who are most vulnerable to the degradation and loss of biodiversity. States should recognize that members of non-indigenous minority communities that have separate cultural traditions and close material and cultural ties to their ancestral territories have rights that are similar (but not simply identical) to those of indigenous peoples, and States should respect and protect their rights as well as those of indigenous peoples. States should support indigenous and local efforts to protect biodiversity, including through ICCAs, recognizing that the traditional knowledge and commitment of indigenous peoples and local communities often make them uniquely qualified to do so.

72. Businesses should respect human rights in their biodiversity-related actions, including by:

  • Complying with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in all actions that may affect biodiversity and ecosystems;
  • Following the Akwé: Kon voluntary guidelines;
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to extractive activities (A/HRC/24/41);
  • Not seeking or exploiting concessions in protected areas or ICCAs.

73. Conservation organizations should increase their efforts to fulfill their commitments to a rights-based approach to conservation, including by implementing the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (see A/71/229, paras. 77-82), and by:

  • Sharing good practices;
  • Building more active partnerships with human rights organizations;
  • Conducting human rights impact assessments;
  • Establishing effective grievance mechanisms.

Source: UN