Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment   


The Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (commonly referred to as the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment) is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder promotes the protection of the environment as a human rights obligation.

The Special Rapporteur is tasked with studying the human rights obligations, including the obligation of non-discrimination, relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Special Rapporteur also identifies and compiles best practices for informing, supporting, and strengthening environmental policy-making. The Special Rapporteur promotes and reports on the realization of human rights obligations relating to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, and the Special Rapporteur identifies the challenges and obstacles to realizing those human rights obligations.

The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate.


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

The UN Human Rights Council established the mandate of the Independent Expert in 2012 with Resolution 19/10 for a period of three years, and the mandate was extended in March 2015 with Resolution 28/11 for an additional three years as Special Rapporteur.

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits 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 examine how countries implement human rights obligations relating to environmental protection. They enable the Special Rapporteur to identify good practices, reach conclusions about the efficacy of the country’s efforts, and consider challenges unique to the country concerned.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes at least one country visit per year. 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 complaints about alleged violations of human rights related to the enjoyment of a safe and healthy environment, or the protection of those rights. 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 communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and other special procedures are also compiled in periodic reports submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions.

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 the individual’s human rights are not violated. Past communications and summaries of the allegations are available for viewing here.

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 human 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.

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 to the Special Rapporteur should be submitted via the online submission form. A complaint should include the following information:

  • the identity of the alleged victim(s);
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
  • identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential;
  • any steps taken to address the violation; and,
  • the date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHCHR-Palais Wilson, United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

  • Telephone: +41(0)22 917 9113
  • Fax: +41(0)22 917 9008