Special Rapporteur on the implication for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes


The Special Rapporteur on the implication for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder examines the human rights aspects of hazardous products from generation to disposal. Human rights implications include the impact of hazardous products on the rights to food, adequate housing, health, and water.

The Special Rapporteur identifies trends related to the improper management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste through country visits and other monitoring. The Special Rapporteur also receives information and complaints about the improper handling of hazardous substances and waste and raises these allegations with the States concerned.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.

The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 1995 with Resolution 1995/81. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2011 with Resolution 18/11.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, engages in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, and submits activity reports to the Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to help governments find solutions to manage and dispose of hazardous substances and waste in environmentally sound ways.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes one to two visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives information and complaints about alleged human rights violations resulting from the improper disposal of hazardous substances and waste. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until it includes them in the communications reports of the special procedures, which are submitted to the Human Rights Council.

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that human rights are not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s rights may be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Dialogue with Governments, Civil Society, and Other Actors

In addition to conducting country visits and receiving complaints, the Special Rapporteur promotes a human rights-based approach to the management of hazardous substances and waste through dialogue with relevant actors. The Special Rapporteur carries on this dialogue by participating in seminars, conferences, and expert meetings.

Reports to the Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Communications submitted to the Special Rapporteur should include the following minimum information:

  • identity of the alleged victim(s) or community(ies) affected;
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
  • the date, place, time, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation; and
  • the identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on toxic waste
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

  • Fax: +41 22 917 90 06

To submit other information via email, contact the Special Rapporteur at [email protected].