The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has published new interpretation and guidance on the relationship between science and the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights. See CESCR, General comment No. 25 (2020) on science and economic, social and cultural rights, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/25, 30 April 2020. In fleshing out Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Committee defines the scope of States’ obligation to support and share scientific research and the advances it makes possible, with regard to everyday life and in crises such as pandemics. The Committee chose to focus on this topic because “science is one of the areas of the Covenant to which States parties give least attention in their reports and dialogues.” See id. at para. 2. Specifically, the General Comment outlines ICESCR States parties’ obligations with respect to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (Art. 15(1)(b)); the conservation, development, and diffusion of science (Art. 15(2)); freedom to engage in scientific research (Art. 15(3)); and, promotion and cooperation in the scientific field (Art. 15(4)). See id. at para. 3.
Category Archives: environmental rights
In its first judgment to independently analyze the human right to a healthy environment, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has held Argentina responsible for violating Indigenous communities’ human rights through its failure to recognize and protect their lands. [IACtHR Press Release] In Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association (Our Land) v. Argentina, the Court considered allegations by Indigenous communities in the province of Salta that the State had failed to implement measures to stop illegal logging and other harmful activities in their territory, which had altered their Indigenous way of life and damaged their cultural identity. See I/A Court H.R., Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association (Our Land) v. Argentina. Judgment of February 6, 2020. Series C No. 400 (Spanish only). This case builds on the Court’s 2017 advisory opinion, in which the Court recognized the “autonomous” right to a healthy environment under the Article 26 (the progressive realization principle) of the American Convention on Human Rights, noting that the right to a healthy environment should not only be considered a component of other substantive human rights. See IACtHR, Official Summary Issued by the Inter-American Court. The judgment also found Argentina responsible for violations of the rights to community property, cultural identity, and adequate food and water. Among other reparations, the Court ordered Argentina to clear the communities’ ancestral lands of settlers and cattle within six years and give the communities the deed. Read more
In a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Paraguay responsible for failing to protect individuals from severe environmental contamination by large-scale farms’ use of illegal chemicals, in violation of the State’s international obligations to protect the rights to life and respect for private and family life and the home. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] While regional human rights bodies have recognized the link between pollution and enjoyment of human rights, this decision marks a first for the Human Right Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which 173 States are party. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] Other relevant developments include a new partnership between the UN Environmental Programme and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking to strengthen global environmental protection efforts and increase protections for environmental activists. [NYTimes; OHCHR Press Release: UNEP]
In December, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Two United Nations treaty bodies will continue reviewing States’ progress, with regard to the elimination of torture and racial discrimination, in sessions that began last month. Four UN special procedures will conduct country visits in December, and two UN working groups will hold sessions.
Regionally, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be holding public sessions.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the IACHR, and the AfCHPR’s public hearings may be watched via UN Web TV, the IACHR’s website or Vimeo page, and the African Court’s YouTube channel, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
In the month of June, several universal and regional bodies will be in session to assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through interactive dialogues, the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Two United Nations treaty bodies will meet in June to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to forced disappearances and children’s rights. Further, civil society can register this month to participate in the sessions of three treaty bodies that will meet in July to engage with States regarding their obligations related to discrimination against women, torture, and civil and political rights, respectively. The UN Human Rights Council and several of its working groups will be in session to review communications as well as thematic and country-specific reports. Four UN special procedures will conduct country visits focusing on torture, human rights defenders, enforced and involuntary disappearances, and the use of mercenaries, respectively.
Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear one case related to the State’s obligation to provide a prisoner access to psychiatric care in a language that the prisoner understands and that is an official language of the State.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the European Court, and the public hearings of the IACtHR, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website or Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
We are pleased to share our latest newsletter. It details the newest additions to the Online Resource Hub, recent engagement with the universal and Inter-American human rights systems, and upcoming events. If receiving this update via email, you can also read the May 2018 newsletter online, or open the PDF directly. For the latest in human rights developments, visit the News Room and IJRC Daily.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently published a general recommendation on the adoption of a gender-based approach on the prevention of and response to climate change and environmental disasters. See Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 37: Gender-related dimensions of disaster-risk reduction in the context of climate change, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/37, 9 February 2018. The General Recommendation provides guidance to States on fully implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the context of climate change and disasters; under the Convention, States parties have both general obligations to ensure gender equality as well as specific obligations to guarantee rights that may be negatively affected by climate change and natural disasters. See id. at para. 10. The General Recommendation warns that pre-existing gender inequalities are aggravated following a disaster and women become more susceptible to gender-based violence, but States parties must still guarantee the rights enumerated in the Convention. See id. at paras. 3, 10. The General Recommendation is one of several recent developments on international standards at the intersection of human rights and the environment; notably the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment recently called for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the universal level, and published guidance on children’s rights and the environment. [OHCHR Press Release] Read more
In the month of September, several regional bodies and universal bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, holding hearings, and reviewing individual complaints. Five United Nations treaty bodies will meet throughout September to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to persons with disabilities; migrants and their families; enforced disappearances; children; and economic, social, and cultural rights. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to unilateral coercive measures, the integration of the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system, the human rights of indigenous peoples, and the impact of intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls. Four UN special rapporteurs will conduct country visits and one working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to enforced disappearances. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The African Court sessions may be watched on its YouTube channel, and the IACHR sessions may also be viewed on its YouTube channel. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Two months after its announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the United States formally submitted notice to the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, on August 4, 2017 that it intends to withdraw as soon as it is eligible to do so. [UN News Centre] The Paris Agreement, which was developed to support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been described as the first universal, legally binding instrument to impose specific obligations on both developed and developing nations to address climate change. The United States’ decision to withdraw has drawn international criticism, and the country’s suggestion that there is opportunity for “re-engaging in the Paris Agreement” has drawn skepticism given that one country cannot unilaterally call for the renegotiation of an agreement signed by 195 States after several years of negotiations. See UNFCCC, UNFCCC Statement on the US Decision to Withdraw from the Paris Agreement. [Reuters] Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Secretary General has stated that any effort to reengage in the Paris Agreement would be welcome. [UN News Centre] The Paris Agreement does not permit withdrawal by submission of written notification until three years after the date that the Agreement entered into force for the State party wishing to withdraw, and withdrawal does not take effect until a year after the notice is submitted. See Paris Agreement, art. 28. When its withdrawal takes effect, the United States will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only States parties to the UNFCCC that have not, at least, signed the Paris Agreement. See UNFCCC, Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification; Status of Ratification of the Convention. Read more
The United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, visited Honduras last week to assess the human rights situation in the country – particularly regarding the protection of human rights defenders and indigenous peoples – a visit that took place in the context of continued threats to human rights defenders in the country. [OHCHR Press Release: Honduras; IACHR Press Release] Also last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported that three members of Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, COPINH) were attacked when last month they came across a blockade and were chased until they were able to get away. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR has noted a pattern of attacks against human rights defenders in the country; in August 2016, independent experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned that Honduras was “one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders,” especially for defenders of the environment and of the right of indigenous peoples to land and territory. [IACHR Press Release] United Nations human rights experts and the IACHR have called on the State to end impunity for attacks against human rights defenders through improved investigations and prosecutions. [IACHR Press Release] See, e.g., Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples on her visit to Honduras, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/42/Add.2, 21 July 2016, paras. 86-93. Honduras is obligated to protect the rights to life and to humane treatment under several international human rights treaties to which it is a party. See, e.g., American Convention on Human Rights, arts. 4, 5; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, arts. 6, 7. This is the second visit to Honduras by a United Nations senior official since the country agreed to open a United Nations Human Rights Office in May 2015. [OHCHR Press Release: Honduras] Read more