08 Feb 2023

Venue: International Environment House I, Room 3 & Online | Webex

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

Ahead of the 52nd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC52), taking place in Geneva and online from 27 February to 4 April 2023, the Geneva Environment Network and its partners convened an information-sharing session on activities and events related to the environment taking place during this session.

About this Session

Environmental issues are present in various agenda items of each session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and their side events.

The right to a clean, healthy and sustainable is the usual main environmental theme of the Council’s March sessions, with the Special Rapporteur’s annual Report to the HRC. Human rights defenders and the human rights to housing and food, are also environment related issues presented by their respective United Nations Special Procedures, also in interactive dialogues with States, international organizations, human rights national institutions and NGOs.

In order to develop more synergies among stakeholders and a better outreach on the environmental agenda of HRC52, including the activities taking place in parallel to the Council’s session, the Geneva Environment Network and its partners convened an information-sharing session. This event discussed and shared information on planned environment related activities at and around HRC52, such as in person and online events, publications or exhibitions, among others, and exchange on possible synergies. They will feed the GEN page on HRC52 which will provide an updated calendar of these environment related events. → Share information on your activity!



Human Rights Officer and Environment team leader, OHCHR

Soo Young HWANG

Legal Officer, UN Environment Programme



Diana RIZZOLIO, Coordinator, Geneva Environment Network

  • The GEN has been publishing pages that provides updates on the environmental agenda in the sessions of the Human Rights Council, particularly following the right to healthy environment, climate change, and human rights and toxics.
  • The session aims to discuss and share information on environment-related activities related to HRC52, which will feed the page.
  • HRC52 is the second session since the UN General Assembly has recognized the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • HRC52 is the session where the Special Rapporteur on the right to a healthy environment reports to the Council.

Introductory Remarks

Benjamin SCHACHTER, Human Rights Officer and Environment team leader, OHCHR

  • Information sessions like this are useful as the Council is increasingly addressing environment issues in various contexts and ways.
    • The human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment (R2E) is an overarching framework under which this work occurs. Having discussions in advance of the Council creates a space to discuss, exchange and have a better understanding of what will happen and where.
    • The last session addressed various issues, but these do not occur in a vacuum as these are part of the broader push to address environmental issues from a human rights perspective.
  • What has happened since the last session of the Council? How have these been informed by the work of the Council and the UNGA resolution on R2E?
    • In the Climate Change COP27 and Biodiversity COP15, outcomes have reflected R2E. This is what the UN Human Rights Office and its partners have been working on: coherence across the different streams of work under the framework of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
    • This comes from the longstanding work of the Core Group of the resolution and civil society, as seen in the outcomes of COP27 and COP15.
  • How does the work in the Council make an impact in other parts of the work of the UN?
    • Strong outcomes from CBD COP15, despite many things that can be improved: R2E, rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, among others.
    • We need to view these processes as part of a broader ecosystem that will work on R2E and make these connections.
  • The new High Commissioner, Volker Turk, is a strong advocate on environmental issues, as he is closely engaged with various processes.
  • There is a tremendous variety of thematic issues of the Council with various side events. You can find them on the GEN page.

Soo Young HWANG | Legal Officer, UNEP

  • Why UNEP is engaged on human rights issues at the Council?
    • The Council is the main policy and decision-making body for human rights, and has given a lot more attention on environmental issues.
    • For coordination, there are many UN intergovernmental bodies working on human rights and the environment, but coordination is key in breaking silos between HRC, UN General Assembly and UN Environment Assembly.
    • Implementation of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, having an impact from the global to the local level.
  • What is UNEP doing in its engagement with the Human Rights Council?
    • Working with Member States, UN agencies, especially OHCHR, and civil society.
    • Release guidance on the right to a healthy environment with OHCHR and UNDP, as well as other guidance on other environment-related themes, such as the Information Note on the Right to a Healthy Environment.
  • Two pending upcoming reports:
    • Handbook on how to engage with human rights mechanisms for civil societies and multilateral environmental agreement parties, or anyone new to the process
    • Stocktaking on the recommendations from treaty bodies, UPR processes and Special Procedures in relation to environmental issues.
      • Extensive research on recommendations received from each committee and process.

Tour de table of Participants

Viktoria ABERG | SR Environment Support

  • The March session is when the SR presents his report to the Human Rights Council. He will be in Geneva from 6-10 March.
    • The presentation of the thematic report will take place on 9 March. He will also be presenting his report on country visits to Slovenia and Portugal, to assess in situ the situation of two of the first countries to have recognized the rights in their constitutions.
    • A side event will be held for a presentation of the SR’s report to the Council.
  • Call for input for his thematic report to UNGA will focus on “Promoting Environmental Democracy: Procedural elements of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment”. This is part of the series of 7 guidance and reports that will build upon the implementation of R2E.
  • A resolution on environment and human rights, not related to the mandate, will be presented by the Core Group to the Council.

Other topics were discussed during the session, including but not limited to:

  • Stocktaking of the IPCC AR-6 Synthesis Report from a human rights perspective;
  • Environmental human rights defenders;
  • International Women’s Day celebration;
  • COP28;
  • among others.

Find the full list of side-events, to be constantly updated on the Geneva Environment Network’s HRC52 page.


Closing Remarks

Ben SCHACHTER | Before the Council, there is the meeting of the Advisory Council where they will be discussing the draft study related to geoengineering, from the 20-24 January.

Soo-Young HWANG | UNEA, taking place early 2024, will focus on a solutions-based approach to the triple planetary crisis, while advancing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Council and GA resolution affecting UNEA decisions is encouraging.

Environment @ HRC52

The 52nd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC52) is taking place in Geneva and online from 27 February to 4 April 2023. This regularly-updated page highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.

Share Information on your Event @ HRC52

Information shared will be placed on our update “Environment @ 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council.”



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