Biodiversity and Human Rights

Report on human rights and biodiversity (2017)

Background and summary of the report (A/HRC/34/49)

In its resolution 28/11, the Human Rights Council recognized the ongoing need to clarify some aspects of the human rights obligations relating to the environment. The Council asked the Special Rapporteur to continue to study those obligations, in consultation with Governments, human rights mechanisms, civil society organizations and others. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur submitted a report on human rights and biodiversity to the 34th session of the Council.

In this report (A/HRC/34/49), the Special Rapporteur, Mr. John H. Knox, examines the human rights obligations relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (biodiversity). In his report, he 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.

Conclusions of the report

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.

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

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

Preparation of the report

In preparation of the report, the Special Rapporteur held an expert meeting and a public consultation from 20 to 22 September 2016 (Concept Note). He also attended the 2016 World Conservation Congress and the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Special Rapporteur examined statements and reports by international organizations, human rights mechanisms, scholars and other sources.

In addition, he sent a questionnaire to States (English | French | Spanish) and other interested stakeholders (English | French | Spanish), which elicited over 60 responses. All submissions to the questionnaire are available here.

Human Rights Council presentation

His statement to the Council is available here and the video of his interactive dialogue with states and other stakeholders can be viewed here.

Press release

He issued a press release on 1 March 2017 and called for states to fulfill their human rights obligations in protecting biodiversity.