Melting ice, rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns attributable to
climate change increasingly affect daily life for millions, and perhaps
billions, of people. When the environment suffers, people suffer. Climate change
increasingly interferes with the realization of fundamental, internationally
recognized human rights- including the right to life, to health, to culture, to
food, to self-determination, to property, and to development. The poorest and
most vulnerable will suffer first, and perhaps most, but ultimately the crisis
will reach all of us.
The importance of the environment to the fulfilment of
human rights is widely accepted at international law. What is less well-accepted
is the proposition that we, as humans, possess rights to the environment beyond
what is necessary to support our basic human needs.
The suggestion that a human
right to a healthy environment may be emerging at international law raises a
number of theoretical and practical challenges for human rights law, with such
challenges coming from both within and outside the human rights discourse. It is
argued that human rights law can make a positive contribution to environmental
protection, but the precise nature of the connection between the environment and
human rights warrants more critical analysis.
This short paper considers the
different ways that the environment is conceptualised in international human
rights law and analyses the proposition that a right to a healthy environment is
emerging. It identifies some of the challenges which would need to be overcome
before such a right could be recognised, including those which draw on the
disciplines of deep ecology and earth jurisprudence and The relationship between
human rights and environmental protection in international law is far from
simple or straightforward. A new attempt to codify and develop international law
on this subject was initiated by the UNHRC in 2011. What can it say that is new
or that develops the existing corpus of human rights law?
possibilities are explored in this article.
First, procedural rights are the
most important environmental addition to human rights law since the 1992 Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development. Any attempt to codify the law on
human rights and the environment would necessarily have to take this development
Secondly, a declaration or protocol could be an appropriate
mechanism for articulating in some form the still controversial notion of a
right to a decent environment.
Thirdly, the difficult issue of extra-territorial
application of existing human rights treaties to transboundary pollution and
global climate change remains unresolved.
The article concludes that the
response of human rights law – if it is to have one – needs to be in global
terms, treating the global environment and climate as the common concern of
humanity. There is link between human rights and Environment; they both
correlate with each other.
As it is said that, Where there is right there is duty . Si if humans have
right to use environment for their purpose it’s there duty to work for
Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of
life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and
well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the
environment for present and future generations.
A human rights perspective directly addresses environmental impacts on the life,
health, private life, and property of individual humans rather than on other
states or the environment in general.
A human rights focus may serve to secure higher standards of environmental
quality, based on the obligation of States to take measures to control pollution
affecting health and private life.
The relationship between human rights and the environment was first recognized
by the UN General Assembly in the late 1960s. In 1972, the direct relationship
between the environment and the right to life was recognized by the United
Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The Preamble stated that Man is
both creature and moulder of his environment, which gives him physical
sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and
Both aspects of man’s environment, the natural and the
manmade, are essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human
rights –even the right to life itself. Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration
established a further foundation for linking human rights and environmental
protection, declaring that Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality
and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a
life of dignity and well-being. In 1982 the World Charter for Nature
acknowledged that Mankind is a part of nature and life depends on the
uninterrupted functioning of natural systems which ensure the supply of energy
and nutrients. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (also known as the Earth Summit) stated that Human beings are at
the centre of concerns for sustainable development.
They are entitled to a
healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. The Declaration also
provided for the right of access to environmental information and of public
participation in environmental decision making. In 2002, the World Summit on
Sustainable Development merely acknowledged the position that there exists a
possible relationship between environment and human rights.
In addition, the UN Human Rights Commission adopted several resolutions linking
human rights and the environment, such as Res. 2005/60 entitled Human rights
and the environment as part of sustainable development. The resolution called
on states to take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate exercise of
everyone’s human rights when promoting environmental protection and sustainable
development and reaffirmed, in this context, that everyone has the right,
individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful
activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
resolution emphasized the needs of the vulnerable members of society and also
encouraged efforts towards the implementation of the Rio Declaration on
Environment and Development.to ensure this right, although there is little
evidence of work to make this happen. Over the last year there has been
increasing interest in these issues. ANPED have made this a key focus for work
towards the 2002 Summit. As part of this work ANPED is building links with NGOs
and other agencies in all parts of the world. There is no doubt that the timing
of this activity is appropriate: the 2001 meeting of the UN High Commission on
Human Rights has called for an international seminar on these issues to be
jointly run by UNEP and the UNCHR.
A Brief Overview – Human Rights And The Environment
Work towards sustainable development is increasingly recognising the importance
of a human rights approach. This should not be surprising: the protection of
human life in relation to life, health, culture and living standards is central
to any social, environmental or economic programmes. The right to life cannot be
realised without the basic right to clean, water, air and land. A human rights
approach allows the quality of life of people, in particular the most
vulnerable, to be integrated into environmental decision making.
There are two main approaches to human rights and the environment:
# The use of existing human rights, and
# The need for new human rights for a safe and clean environment.
The rights we have already are:
1. Civil and political and
2. Economic, social and cultural. Civil and political rights provide for moral
and political order.
Such rights include the right to life, equality, political
participation and association. They are couched most clearly in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (1966). When realised civil and political rights are
fundamental to guaranteeing a political order supportive of sustainable
development. They can protect civil mobilisation around environmental protection
and equity. Economic, social and cultural rights are often referred to as
‘second generation’ rights. These provide substantive standards for an
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights (1966) provides an example. The Covenant provides, amongst
others, the right to health which recognises the need for environmental
improvement. It also provides for self-determination including the right of all
peoples to manage their own natural resources. These second generation rights
often have a direct bearing on the human and environmental condition. Although
existing first and second generation rights can provide for a degree of global
and environmental protection if effectively mobilised, they are indirect
environmental rights. They therefore suffer from a lack of clarity and precision
on environmental protection and equity. What is required to strengthen the use
of universal human rights are direct policy, legislation and institutional
changes which recognise a specific right to a healthy environment and which
takes into account both substantive and procedural issues. All human beings
depend on the environment in which we live. A safe, clean, healthy and
sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of
human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation.
Without a healthy environment, we are unable to fulfil our aspirations or even
live at a level commensurate with minimum standards of human dignity. At the
same time, protecting human rights helps to protect the environment. When
people are able to learn about, and participate in, the decisions that affect
them, they can help to ensure that those decisions respect their need for a
In recent years, the recognition of the links between human rights and the
environment has greatly increased. The number and scope of international and
domestic laws, judicial decisions, and academic studies on the relationship
between human rights and the environment have grown rapidly.
Many States now incorporate a right to a healthy environment in their
constitutions. Many questions about the relationship of human rights and the
environment remain unresolved, however, and require further examination.
As a result, in March 2012 the Human Rights Council decided to establish a
mandate on human rights and the environment, which will (among other tasks)
study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean,
healthy and sustainable environment, and promote best practices relating to the
use of human rights in environmental policymaking. Mr. John Knox was appointed
in August 2012 to serve as the Independent Expert (2012 – 2015) and as the
Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (2015 – 2018).
In March 2018, the Human Rights Council further extended the mandate
(resolution 37/8) and appointed Mr. David. R. Boyd as the Special Rapporteur on
human rights and the environment (as of 1 August 2018).
The need for environmental rights
It is nearly thirty years since the UN Stockholm Conference in 1972 put
environmental issues on the international agenda. Since then there has been much
hard work to protect and improve the environment globally, nationally and
locally. There has been much progress, but it is clear that in all parts of the
world our environment is under threat and that many problems are becoming more
serious. The Rio summit recognised these problems and sought to resolve them
through Agenda 21 and the various UNCED Conventions.
Work on implementing these conventions, which are based on the principle of
common but differentiated responsibility , has gradually revealed that these less than perfect bargains
1. Failed to place constraints on national strategies that may lead to
2. Failed to ensure the implementation of national
framework laws and enforcement strategies such as National Environmental Action
3. Failed to control perverse state resource use and damaged
4. Increasingly revealed the inadequacies of funding
by those agencies which fund strictly environmental work that does not consider
socio-economic factors. It is failures such as these that have led to calls for
a new approach to sustainable development.
A further driver for change has been
the increased pressure resulting from globalisation. It is clear that
non-mandatory (soft law) agreements are an inadequate basis for ensuring
effective control of these processes. The need for change has been acknowledged,
but some will question whether the introduction of inalienable human rights to a
safe environment is the way forward. It has been suggested during our initial
work that adequate rights already exist.
This is simply not the case. There are
a few key international rights, but substantive rights to a safe environment the
rights are still largely implied rather than explicit. In theory, existing human
rights legislation should protect our environment but this does not happen in
Many groups have tried to use Human Rights legislation to protect the
environment, such as the Right to Life
defined by Article 2 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has a right to life
protected by law
. Most attempts to do this have been unsuccessful, although
some successful cases exist. We believe that this is an inadequate way to
provide for our rights.
3.1 Defining environmental rightsWe suggest that any discussion of environmental human rights must encompass
three areas of work:
# The right to a clean and safe environment
# The right to act to protect the environment
# The right to information participate in decision-making Different organisations across the world are approaching these issues in their own ways,
but there are some commonalities:
# The right to a clean and safe environment these are ‘substantive’ rights.
They are the most basic rights, and the hardest to define. Many organisations
would support the idea that clean water and food security are basic human
rights (quotes from UNEP Geo 2000 report). The UN Draft Principles from 1994
(see Appendix) spell out what these might be in more detail.
# The right to act to protect the environment This right is inherent in the UN
Declaration and associated Conventions, through the right to organise and to
free assembly. This right is under threat in many nations. The ‘Just Earth’
campaign run by the Sierra Club and Amnesty International USA has highlighted
many such examples.
# The right to information, to access to justice, and to participate in
environmental decision-making these rights enable citizens to play an active
part in creating a healthy environment, and they are directly linked to the key
points in several UN Conventions and Declarations.
In Europe these rights are
enshrined in the UNECE ‘Arhus Convention’ (the European Convention on Access to
Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental
Decision-Making) (see below); other regions will need to consider how best to
deliver these rights within local circumstances. These rights do not exist in
isolation: they cannot be seen as separate from other human rights or from other
issues linked to poverty, economic and social exclusion.
A human rights
perspective to sustainable development moves from the ‘traditional green’ issues
to a wider approach to protecting the most vulnerable in society. These rights
can provide a platform for environmental and sustainable improvements are likely
to benefit the most marginalised people, the poor, women, and minorities. The
human rights perspective facilitates policies that have a strong impact on
poverty and exclusion for reasons of gender or race.
The right to information,
justice and participation within the sustainable development context includes
rather than excludes people who have felt excluded from the traditional green
movement agendas. Environmental human rights support a bottom up approach.
Active involvement and shared control, by the people and states most affected by
a degraded environment is fundamental at local, national and global levels.
The UN Draft Principles
In 1994 the forty-sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights
(Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities)
received a report entitled Review Of Further Developments In Fields With
Which The Sub-Commission Has Been Concerned On Human Rights And The Environment
was the Final Report prepared by Mrs. Fatma Zohra Ksentini, the Special
Rapporteur on this issue appointed in 1989. Mrs. Ksentini’s work focused
initially on the issue of toxic wastes and dumping of these wastes in poorer
nations (an issue which was high on the international agenda in the late 1980s).
Her work broadened during the research on this and became a major overview of
The final report included a full analysis of environmental rights and
legislation at a national level. The report also suggested that: For many
years environmental problems were almost exclusively considered from the
standpoint of the pollution in one part of the world, i.e. the industrialized
countries (Immediately after the Stockholm Conference, perception of
environmental problems was limited to a specific geographical area, the
industrialized countries, and reduced to the simplest of terms, pollution.
Mohammed Sahnoun, Environnement et développement
, Revue algérienne des
relations Internationales, No. 8, 1987, OPU, Algiers.). It identified the need
for new approaches to these problems.
Most significantly the report concludes
with a set of ‘Draft Principles for a Declaration on Human Rights and
Environment’. These provide the best overview of how substantive rights might be
defined and are attached as Appendix 1. These were discussed in 1994 on the
release of the report but were not taken forward. Since then developments in
this field make it an appropriate time to revisit these issues and
3.2 International Law Relating To Environment
On the environmental, general awareness of environmental issues grew from the
1950’s onwards, with the first globally applicable international conventions or
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) being agreed in the 1970s and
1980s. These include the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the 1972 World
Heritage Convention, the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species, the 1979 Convention on Migratory Species and the 1989 Basel Convention
Control of Transport of Hazardous Wastes.
In the past two decades, the most
important and familiar MEAs are the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change,
the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity and the 1994 Convention to Combat
Desertification. Protocols, guidelines and annexes have been added to these
conventions to promote their implementation at national and regional level.
While attempts have been made at outlining criteria for measurement of
effectiveness of MEAs, there is currently no overarching, commonly-agreed upon
criteria for such measurement or for the measurement of implementing
environmental legislation at a domestic level. Clearly, in order to promote
implementation of environmental law at international and national level, at
least some general criteria should be developed.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) addresses environmental issues at
the global and regional levels. Its core objectives are to serve as an
authoritative advocate for the global environment, to support governments in
setting the global environmental agenda, and to promote the coherent
implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within
the UN system. One of its key mandates is to promote the development and
implementation of international environmental law.
UNDP has also conducted a comparative experiences analysis of environmental
justice trends as a joint endeavour between UNDP’s governance and environment
and energy expertise and capacities.
4. Defining Human Rights
Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their
fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who
deserves to be treated with dignity. They are called human rights because they
are universal. 10th December is Human Right’s Day – marking the date when the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948. It’s often
been said that many of us take our rights and freedoms for granted.
The term human rights
has become a bit of a buzz word
amongst the kind of people who
love to add their comments to Daily Mail articles or on Facebook articles:
not the EU and human rights!
What springs to their mind is: terrorist
extremists sponging of the state along with their families
or we’re bending
over backwards for minorities
Well that’s not what human rights are. Human rights offer us safety, freedom and
The Need of Human RightsViolations against freedom of speech, expression, assembly and
Imagine living in a country where you’re unable to express your own personal and
political beliefs, unable to go on peaceful demonstrations, unable to hold an
No protesting the Syrian war, no protesting benefit cuts, no having
your say. Worldwide, it’s happening– China, Venezuela, Crimea, the USA Take
Venezuela as an example 2014 was quoted as being the worst year for freedom of
expression with 350 cases and 579 violations (the highest figure in 20 years)
affecting journalists and those working in the media as well as members of NGOs,
human rights activists and civilians:
As far as the attacks and threats against journalists and photo journalists
went, the report indicated that the majority came while covering public
protests. These acts of aggression included beatings, pellet shots, tear gas
attacks, detainments, the confiscation of cameras and cell phones, the
destruction of audio-visual and photographic material, and intimidation.
# Torture, arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and restrictions against
freedom of movement
Following online and offline activism – peaceful protests, blogging online,
newspaper journalism, political activism – human rights defenders and regime
opponents or those simply in the wrong place at the wrong time could end up
being locked up and subject to torture (physical, emotional, sexual and
spiritual abuse/neglect) including sexual assault and malnutrition. There’s also
the case of those who are never brought to trial – whether guilty or innocent of
their supposed crime(s).
let’s take Guantanamo Bay as an example. May inmates have even never been taken
to trial, are subject to torture and continue to protest their innocence. The
latest news story was that of Shakeer Aamer. Shakeer was imprisoned in Guantanamo
for 14 years without trial and subject to torture. Shakeer always protested his
innocence- he was detained when working in Afghanistan for an Islamic charity.
He was recently able to return home to the UK to be with his family. For
the first time in his life he was able to meet his youngest son – aged 14.
Indian Laws Relating to Environment and Human Rights
The chapter on fundamental duties of the Indian Constitution clearly imposes
duty on every citizen to protect environment. Article 51-A (g), says that
It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural
environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have
compassion for living creatures.
Article 47 provides that the State shall regard the raising of the level of
nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public
health as among its primary duties. The improvement of public health also
includes the protection and improvement of environment without which public
health cannot be assured. Article 48 deals with organization of agriculture and
animal husbandry. It directs the State to take steps to organize agriculture and
animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
In particular, it should take
steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of
cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. Article 48 -A of the
constitution says that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the
environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country
The Constitution of India under part III guarantees fundamental rights which
are essential for the development of every individual and to which a person is
inherently entitled by virtue of being human alone. Right to environment is also
a right without which development of individual and realisation of his or her
full potential shall not be possible. Articles 21, 14 and 19 of this part have
been used for environmental protection.
According to Article 21 of the constitution, no person shall be
deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure
established by law . Article 21 has received liberal interpretation from time to
time after the decision of the Supreme Court in
Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of
, (AIR 1978 SC 597). Article 21 guarantees fundamental right to life.
Right to environment, free of danger of disease and infection is inherent in it.
Right to healthy environment is important attribute of right to live with human
Policy and Laws in Medieval India (1638-1800 AD)
To Mughal rulers, forest meant no more than woodlands where they could hunt. The
history of medieval India is dominated by Muslim Rulers where no noteworthy
development of environmental jurisprudence took place except during the rule of
Mughal Emperor Akbar. During Akbar’s rule except rulers others are prohibited
from hunting or shikar. But no major initiatives took place during medieval
period to prevent environmental protection and conservation of natural resources
as the rulers were only interested in war, religion propagation and empire
building. Barring royal trees which enjoyed patronage from being cut except
upon a fee, there was no restriction on cutting of other trees, hunting animals,
etc. Forests during this period shrank steadily in size.
Laws in British India (1800-1947 AD)
# Shore Nuisance (Bombay and Kolaba) Act, 1853 imposed restrictions on the
fouling of seawater.
# Merchant Shipping Act of 1858 dealt with prevention of sea pollution by oil.
# The Fisheries Act, 1897
# The Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act of 1905
# Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act of 1912
# Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1912
Laws after Independence (1947)
The Indian Constitution, as adopted in 1950, did not deal with that the subject
of environment or prevention and control of pollution as such (until 1976
Amendment). The post independent Indian approach was centred on economic
development and poverty alleviation and not on resource conservation.
The year 1972 was a landmark in the field of environment, when United Nations
Conference on the Human Environment was held at Stockholm (Sweden) from 5th to
16th June, in which Declaration on the Human Environment
was adopted. This may
be considered as the beginning of environment movement in the world.
The Stockholm Declaration of 1972 was perhaps the first major attempt to
conserve and protect the human environment at the international level. The
preamble of it states, 'the need for a common outlook and for common principles
to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and
enhancement of the human environment.
As a consequence of this Declaration, the States were required to adopt
legislative measures to protect and improve the environment. Accordingly, Indian
Parliament inserted two Articles, i.e., 48A and 51A in the Constitution of India
In India a separate ministry namely The Department of Environment was
established in 1980 to ensure a healthy environment for the country.
The main acts for environment protection in India are as follows:
1. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
2. The Prevention of Air and Water Pollution, 1974, 1981 (The Central Pollution
Control Board) (CPCB) was constituted under this act.
3. The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution, 1981.
4. The Atomic Energy Act. 1982.
5. The Environmental Protection Act, 1986. (It came into force soon after the
Bhopal Gas Tragedy)
6. The Environmental Conservation Act. 1989.
7. The National Environmental Tribunal, 1995.
8. National Environmental Appellate Authority Act, 1997.
9. National Environment Management Act (NEMA), 1998
10. Handling and Management of Hazardous Waste Rule in 1989.
11. The Public Liability Insurance Act (Rules and Amendment), 1992.
12. The Biomedical Waste Management and Handling Rules, 1998.
13. The Environment (Siting for Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999.
14. The Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
15. The Ozone Depleting Substance (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
16. The Biological Diversity Act 2002.
Environment And The Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution is among the few in the world that contains specific
provisions on environmental protection.
Laws made by national, provincial and local government add to the rights and
responsibilities that are part of the constitution and the common law. These
laws also called legislations must comply with the constitution but they can
amend change the common hand.
Protection of Life and Personal Liberty is embodied in Article 21. It states,
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to
procedure established by law.
The Indian Constitution guarantees the ‘right to equality to all persons without
any discrimination. This indicates that any action of the ‘State’ relating to
environment must not infringe upon the right to equality as mentioned in the
Article 14 of the Constitution. The Stockholm Declaration, 1972, also recognized
this principle of equality in environmental management and it called up all the
worlds’ nations to abide by this principle.
In the Constitution of India it is clearly stated that it is the duty of the
state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and
wildlife of the country’. It imposes a duty on every citizen ‘to protect and
improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.
How does the UN promote and protect human rights?
High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has lead
responsibility in the UN system for the promotion and protection of human
rights. The office supports the human rights components of peacekeeping
missions in several countries, and has many country and regional offices and
centres. The High Commissioner for Human Rights regularly comments on human
rights situations in the world and has the authority to investigate situations
and issue reports on them.
Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council, established in 2006, replaced the 60-year-old UN
Commission on Human Rights as the key independent UN intergovernmental body
responsible for human rights.
Human Rights Treaty Bodies
The human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that
monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties
The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are prominent, independent
experts working on a voluntary basis, who examine, monitor, publicly report and
advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.
The UN Development Group’s Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism (UNDG-HRM)
advances human rights mainstreaming efforts within the UN development system.
Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect
The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise
awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where
there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate
action; the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect leads the
conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the
Responsibility to Protect.
What legal instruments help the UN protect human rights?The International Bill of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was the first legal document
protecting universal human rights. Together with the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, the three instruments form the so-called International Bill
of Human Rights. A series of international human rights treaties and other
instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the body of international human
Democracy, based on the rule of law, is ultimately a means to achieve
international peace and security, economic and social progress and development,
and respect for human rights – the three pillars of the United Nations mission
as set forth in the UN Charter. At the 2005 World Summit, all the world’s
governments reaffirmed that democracy is a universal value based on the freely
expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and
cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives and
stressed that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and
fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing . Democratic
principles are woven throughout the normative fabric of the United Nations.
The 2009 Guidance Note on Democracy of the Secretary-General sets out the United
Nations framework for democracy based on universal principles, norms and
standards and commits the Organization to principled, coherent and consistent
action in support of democracy.
What other UN offices and bodies are responsible for protecting human rights?Security Council
The UN Security Council, at times, deals with grave human rights violations,
often in conflict areas. The UN Charter gives the Security Council the
authority to investigate and mediate, dispatch a mission, appoint special
envoys, or request the Secretary-General to use his good offices. The Security
Council may issue a ceasefire directive, dispatch military observers or a
peacekeeping force. If this does not work, the Security Council can opt for
enforcement measures, such as economic sanctions, arms embargos, financial
penalties and restrictions, travel bans, the severance of diplomatic relations,
a blockade, or even collective military action.
Third Committee of the General Assembly
The General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)
examines a range of issues, including human rights questions. The Committee
also discusses questions relating to the advancement of women, the protection of
children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of
fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial
discrimination, and the right to self-determination. The Committee also
addresses important social development questions.
Various Other UN Bodies
Different intergovernmental bodies and interdepartmental mechanisms based at the
United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as the United
Nations Secretary-General, address a range of human rights issues. The General
Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)and their subsidiary organs
make policy decisions and recommendations to Member States, the United Nations
system and other actors. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Issues (UNPFII), an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, has a
mandate to discuss indigenous issues, including human rights. The Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights interacts with and provides advice and
support on human rights issues to these bodies and mechanisms.
The Office also
works to mainstream human rights in all areas of work of the Organization,
including development, peace and security, peacekeeping and humanitarian
affairs. Human rights issues are also addressed in the context of the
post-conflict UN peace building support activities.
The Secretary-General appoints special representatives, who advocate against
major human rights violations:
# Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
# Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in
# Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against
The Human Rights Up Front
Initiative is an initiative by the UN
Secretary-General to ensure the UN system takes early and effective action, as
mandated by the Charter and UN resolutions, to prevent or respond to serious and
large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.
initiative underlines a shared responsibility among the various UN entities to
work together to address such violations. HRuF seeks to achieve this by
effecting change at three levels: cultural, operational and political. These
changes are gradually transforming the way the UN understands its
responsibilities and implements them. The initiative has been progressively
rolled-out since late 2013. Through various presentations, letters and policy
documents, the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General have presented
HRuF to the General Assembly and to staff and UN system leaders.
On 19 January 2018, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres
established the International Commission of Inquiry envisioned by the Agreement
on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. He appointed Lena Sundh (Sweden), Vinod
Boolell (Mauritius) and Simon Munzu (Cameroon) to serve as Commissioners and
selected Ms. Sundh as Chair. Established at the request of the signatory parties
to the Agreement, the Commission of Inquiry will advance national reconciliation
and support the Malian authorities’ efforts in the fight against impunity. The
Commissioners, who are serving in their personal capacities, will investigate
serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed
in Mali since January 2012 and submit a report to the Secretary General on 22
UN Peace Operations
Many United Nations peacekeeping operations and political and peacebuidling
missions also include the human rights-related mandates aimed at contributing to
the protection and promotion of human rights through both immediate and
long-term action; empowering the population to assert and claim their human
rights; and enabling State and other national institutions to implement their
human rights obligations and uphold the rule of law.
Human Rights teams on the
ground work in close cooperation and coordination with other civilian and
uniformed components of peace operations, in particular, in relation to the
protection of civilians; addressing conflict-related sexual violence and
violations against children; and strengthening respect for human rights and the
rule of law through legal and judicial reform, security sector reform and prison
Commission on the Status of Women
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global
intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the
advancement of women. UN Women, established in 2010, serves as its
Councils to Protect Environment
The United Nations Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level
decision-making body on the environment. It addresses the critical environmental
challenges facing the world today. Understanding these challenges and preserving
and rehabilitating our environment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for
The Environment Assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global
environmental policies and develop international environmental law. Through its
resolutions and calls to action, the Assembly provides leadership and catalyses
intergovernmental action on the environment. Decision-making requires broad
participation, which is why the Assembly provides an opportunity for all peoples
to help design solutions for our planet’s health.
Articulating a right to a decent or healthy environment within the context of
economic, social, and cultural rights is not inherently problematic. Clarifying
the existence of such a right would entail giving greater weight to the global
public interest in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable
development, but this could be achieved without doing damage to the fabric of
human rights law, and in a manner which fully respects the wide margin of
appreciation that states are entitled to exercise when balancing economic,
environmental, and social policy objectives. It would build on existing
precedents under the ICESCR, and reflect international policy on sustainable
development endorsed at Rio in 1992 and in subsequent international conferences.
The further elaboration of procedural rights, based on the Aarhus Convention,
would facilitate the implementation of such a right, and give greater prominence
globally to the role of NGOs in public interest litigation and advocacy. These
two developments go hand in hand. They are not a necessary part of any
declaration or protocol on human rights and the environment, but they do
represent a logical extension of existing policies and would represent a real
exercise in progressive development of the law.
A declaration or protocol on
human rights and the environment thus makes sense provided it brings together
existing civil, political, economic, and social rights in one coherent whole,
while at the same time re-conceptualizing in the language of economic and social
rights the idea of the environment as a common good. It would, in other words,
recognize the global environment as a public interest that states have a
responsibility to protect, even if they only implement that responsibility
progressively and insofar as resources allow.
Using existing human rights law to grapple with climate change is more
challenging. Giving human rights extraterritorial scope in environmental cases
is not the problematic issue, however. As we have seen, the argument that
transboundary victims come within the jurisdiction or control of the polluting
state can be made, is consistent with existing human rights law, and is
supported by developments in international environmental law.
f that is correct
then a state does have to take account of transboundary environmental impacts on
human rights and it is obliged to facilitate access to remedies and other
procedures. But climate change is a global problem. It cannot easily be
addressed by the simple process of giving existing human rights law
It affects many states and much of humanity. Its causes,
and those responsible, are too numerous and too widely spread to respond
usefully to individual human rights claims. Moreover, much of the economic
policy which drives greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is presently lawful and
consistent with the terms of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. It is no more
likely to be derailed by human rights litigation based on ICCPR rights than the
UK’s policy on Heathrow airport in the Hatton Case
The response of human rights
law – if it is to have one – needs to be in global terms, treating the global
environment and climate as the common concern of humanity. That is why locating
the right to a decent environment within the corpus and institutional structures
of economic, social, and cultural rights makes more sense. In that context the
policies of individual states on energy use, reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions, land use, and deforestation could be scrutinized and balanced against
the evidence of their global impact on human rights and the environment.
not a panacea for deadlock in the UNFCCC negotiations, but it would give the
rights of humanity as a whole a voice that at present is scarcely heard.
the UNHRC wishes to travel down this road is another question, for politicians
to answer rather than lawyers, but that is where it must go if it wishes to do
more than posture on climate change.
 Report by UN High Commission 2001
 UN DRAFT REPORT
 INDIAN CONSTITUTION BARE ACT Publication by Universal
Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, (AIR 1978 SC 597)
 UNITED NATION ON WOMEN RIGHTS
Written By: Dinesh Yadav
(Student), KR Mangalam University, Harayana
8130604430 / [email protected]