John Knox finishes historic mandate as Special Rapporteur on the Environment and Human Rights

Professor John Knox recently finished his historic mandate as the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. 

John Knox

Professor John Knox recently finished his historic mandate as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. In 2012, the Human Rights Council appointed Professor Knox as the first Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. The Council reappointed him as Special Rapporteur in 2015 for an additional three-year term.

Professor Knox is currently the Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law at Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina, USA. His scholarship focuses on the relationship between human rights law and environmental law.

As the first person to hold the position of Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Professor Knox created a precedent for others to follow, ensuring States recognize the interdependence of human rights and the environment. During his mandate, Professor Knox published reports on Children’s Rights and the Environment and the Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment.

Professor Knox urged States to consider human rights in their environmental policies. He considered rights to biodiversity as human rights and called upon States to recognize the right to a safe and healthy environment.

Professor Knox articulated that the time has come for the United Nations to recognize environmental rights as human rights, which many countries have already done. The United Nations must also recognize the Framework Principles because they contain more complete versions of environmental human rights and coinciding State obligations.

The new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, appointed on 6 July 2018,  is Professor David Boyd of the University of British Columbia. He commented that  “I am delighted to be serving as the next Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment and feels tremendously fortunate to be building on the strong foundation laid by John Knox during his exemplary term as the mandate-holder.” Professor Boyd believes that “there is a window of opportunity opening up for global recognition of the fundamental right to live in a healthy environment. Our responsibility is to do everything in our power to make this happen as quickly as possible, so that we can turn our attention to implementing and fulfilling this right.” More information on the Special Rapporteur is available here

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