Published: 20 Jun 2020

The 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC43), started in Geneva on 24 February. Given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the Human Rights Council suspended its 43rd session on 13 March 2020. The resumed session is being held from 15 to 23 June 2020.

43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

The 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC43), started in Geneva on 24 February, but given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the Human Rights Council suspended its 43rd session on 13 March 2020. The resumed session is being held from 15 to 23 June 2020. #HRC43

Per the advice of the UN Secretary-General and UNOG Director-General, guided by the Swiss authorities, all Council-related side events have been cancelled as of 3 March 2020.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, launched the Human Rights Call to Action at HRC43, including the action point to promote the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all.

The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Right on Realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment, presented at this session, looks at effects of environmental degradation on children, including climate change, toxics pesticides, EDCs, plastic, mercury, ewaste, toxic metals: 85 million children engaged in hazardous labour are exposed to toxic substances; 25% of infant deaths are from preventable, environmental hazards, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights when presenting the report.

The environmental-related topics on the agenda included the protection of environmental human rights defenders, climate and the latest reports of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment.

Environmental Human Rights Defenders

The Council considered a resolution, presented by Norway, to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. In 2019, the Council recognized the critical role of environmental human rights defenders in protecting vital ecosystems, addressing climate change, attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs). As a follow-up to the HRC Resolution 40/11, a Geneva Road Map – seeking to ensure the effective implementation of the right to act for the protection of the environment and to promote free and safe spaces for information and discussion on environmental matters – was proposed by the University of Geneva and partners during the first week of the council. It was developed during a 2-day technical workshop, and presented at a public dialogue (26 February), and a side event at the Human Rights Council (27 February), with the support of the Geneva Environment Network.

Read the blog “The Environmental Defenders Crisis : Towards a Geneva Road Map“.

Environmental Human Rights Defenders Workshop at Palais Eynard, February 2020.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment

At this session, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, presented his annual report, his country visits to Fiji and Norway, and the good practices reports, on 2 March.

The Civil Society Organizations meeting with Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment and the side event on the Special Rapporteur report on the Good practices on the Right to a Healthy Environment & the next steps took both place the first week of the Council. The side event was co-sponsored by the Geneva Environment Network.

A consultation on the upcoming report on biodiversity of the special rapporteur took place on Tuesday 3 March.

Universal Periodic Review

Amnesty International, CIEL, Earthjustice, Franciscans International, and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, welcomed the increasing interest and discussions towards a more adequate and systematic inclusion of environment and climate change related issues and recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review. As far as the UPR is concerned, they consider  that recommendations on climate change should become an integral part of the review process and be taken into consideration by all stakeholders.

18th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), the leading international event dedicated to film and human rights, was suppose to take place in Geneva from 6-15 March, in parallel to the annual main session of the UN Human Rights Council in March. The 2020 FIFDH was planning to bring together the protagonists of the civil society mobilizations for climate that took place around the world.

The event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic but an updated programme was put forward. 27 debates and interviews were transmitted live on the internet.

On 10 March, the second edition of the Impact Day was expecting more than 100 participants confirmed. The Impact Day aimed to strengthen the potential of cinematic storytelling as a tool for social and cultural change. Filmmakers, producers, NGOs and foundations were invited to participate in this event where the goal is to find potential alliances and strategies that will increase the quality and results of films’ impact campaigns.

Who to follow on Twitter

@SREnvironment | Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
@SRtoxics | Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
@ForstMichel | Former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
@YvesLador | Special Representative of Earthjustice in Geneva
@duycks | Senior Attorney – Climate and Energy Programme at the Center for International Environmental Law
@giuliacrln | Staff Attorney – Chemicals at the Center for International Environmental Law
@URGthinktank | Universal Rights Group (URG)
@Geneva_Academy | Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
@NorwayInGeneva | Permanent Mission of the Republic of Norway
@FijiGeneva
| Permanent Mission of the Republic of Fiji
@nazhatskhan | Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva
@SLOtoUNGeneva | Permanent Mission of the Republic of Slovenia