22 Sep 2021
15:30–17:00

Lieu: Online | Webex

This virtual side-event to the 48th Session of the Human Right Council, is convened by the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, within the framework of the Geneva Toxic Free Talks, with logistical support of the Geneva Environment Network. The Special Rapporteur will present his annual thematic report to the UN Human Rights Council, dedicated to the human right to science with regard to the risks and harms associated with the life cycle of hazardous substances and wastes, examining the dynamics and interconnections between scientific progress, the diffusion of scientific information and the science-policy interface.

About this Session

Science provides the international community with knowledge about the risks and harms posed by hazardous substances on human health and the environment and thus enables the elaboration of evidence-based policies to address those threats. Science-based policies protect the range of human rights that are compromised when individuals and communities are exposed to hazardous substances and waste.  The creation of effective channels connecting science with policymaking is indispensable to advancing the contribution of scientific knowledge to human rights protection.

The right to science implies the availability and accessibility of accurate scientific information to the general public and specific stakeholders. The right to science also requires that governments correct scientific disinformation. It implies an enabling environment where scientific freedoms may be realized and where governments foster needed scientific research on toxic substances that endanger human health and the environment.

The ability of society to benefit from scientific knowledge is threatened by the propagation of disinformation about scientific evidence. The manufacturing of doubt about the risks and harms of hazardous substances by producers of deadly products has become a lucrative business. Certain business entities specialize in deliberately spreading ignorance and confusion in society. Tactics of denial, diversion and distortion are intended to keep hazardous products on the market, despite knowledge of their risks and harms, and at the expense of adequate human rights protections. Scientists themselves are often the target of campaigns that harass, discredit, threaten or undermine them if they question, publish or speak out about the risks and harms of hazardous substances.

The side event will be dedicated to an exchange of views on these and other aspects related to the right to science in the context of toxic substances.

Provisional Agenda

Opening Remarks

  • H.E. Amb. Álvaro MOERZINGER | Permanent Representative of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay to UN Geneva
  • Felix WERTLI | Head, Global Affairs Section, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

Presentation of the Report to the Human Rights Council

  • Marcos ORELLANA | UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights

Disinformation campaigns through distortion of scientific information and dissemination of fake science, silencing of scientists and means to combat such practices

  • Laura N. VANDENBERG | Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Citizen science, practical application of the right to science to the benefit of communities

  • Sarojeni RENGAM | Executive Director at Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific

Relevance to UNEA and ICCM5 process

  • Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE | Chief, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

Discussion

Closing

Speakers

By order of intervention.

H.E. Amb. Álvaro MOERZINGER

Permanent Representative of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva

Felix WERTLI

Head, Global Affairs Section, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

Marcos ORELLANA

UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights

Laura N. VANDENBERG

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Sarojeni RENGAM

Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific

Monika GAIL MACDEVETTE

Chief, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

The Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights

About the Mandate

The mandate on hazardous substances and wastes was first established in 1995 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Commission Resolution 1995/81). Today, it is under UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/45/17 of 2020.

Learn More About the Mandate and Resolution →

Current Mandate Holder

Marcos A. Orellana was appointed Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights (full title – Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes) in August 2020. He is an expert in international law and the law on human rights and the environment. His practice as legal advisor has included work with United Nations agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations.

Read Marcos A. Orellana’s full biography →

About the Geneva Toxic Free Talks

Geneva Toxic Free Talks

Geneva is a central place for those struggling against the threat of contamination by the use of toxic substances. As the Special Rapporteur reports every Fall to the Human Right Council and to the UN General Assembly on these issues, the Geneva Toxic Free Talks take the momentous opportunity in the year to reflect on the challenges posed by the production, use and dissemination of toxics and on how Geneva contributes to bringing together those working in reversing the toxic tide. This year, the Special Rapporteur will also be presenting a report on Plastics and human rights on 23 September 2021 at 13:30 CEST.

Registration

This session will take place online. Kindly register directly on the Webex platform.

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