Yearbook of International Environmental Law - Vol. 7

By Günther Handl; Jutta Brunnée et al. | Go to book overview

I. GENERAL DEVELOPMENTS

1. HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

(1) United Nations Commission on Human Rights

At the UN, the Commission on Human Rights deferred for the second year consideration of the Draft Declaration on Human Rights and the Environment, proposed in an annex to the final report of the Special Rapporteur. The report had been submitted to the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in 1994 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/ 1994/9 and Corr. 1). The Commission decided, in resolution 1996/13, to continue the issue to its 1997 session and asked that the Secretariat continue to seek comments on the draft from governments and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations ( NGOS) and to include them in a report to the Commission.

The Secretariat prepared for the Commission a summary of the comments received prior to the 1996 session (E/CN.4/ 1996/23 and Add. 1, Add. 2). Nine governments submitted information ( Angola, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Spain, Turkey, The Holy See, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), as well as five NGOs (the World Federation of the Deaf, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Human Rights Advocates, and the International Indian Treaty Council). Seven intergovernmental bodies sent remarks, including the World Food Programme, the UN Population Fund, and the UN Research Institute for Social Development.

Spain commented most extensively in support of the draft declaration, particularly the right to a healthy environment. The government noted, however, that the financial implications for the state, in its view, made the right different from "conventional public freedoms." It thus proposed adding a provision that states shall respect and ensure the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment "as far as their economic, financial and budgetary policies allow." Kuwait expressed its support for the draft declaration, stating that "many of the principles relating to the environment and human rights . . . set forth in the report . . . [were] incorporated in the Kuwaiti constitution." It called for further emphasis on the problems of human rights and the environment during armed conflicts. The most critical comments were submitted by Mexico. The Mexican government objected in particular to elements in the draft declaration that recognize land rights for indigenous peoples and the right of all persons to safe and healthy food and water. Mexico generally expressed its opposition to the declaration, and to the followup by the Center for Human Rights. The NGOs were all strongly in favor of the report and draft declaration.

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