Last updated: 29 Jun 2022

The 50th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC50) is taking place in Geneva and online from 13 June to 8 July 2022. This page highlights the environmental-related activities of this session. The page is regularly updated.

The Council proceedings can be followed live on UN TV. The meeting summaries will be available on the UN Geneva website and the live-updated programme of work on Sched.

Commemorating the 50th Session of the Council

In commemoration of the 50th session of the Human Rights Council, a High-Level event took place to provide stakeholders a platform to reflect upon and discuss the achievements and lessons learned in the past 49 sessions.

One of the achievements mentioned was the importance of the Council’s work on human rights in addressing unprecedented challenges, such as climate change. As highlighted by H.E. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the Council had shown its value in supporting the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and in combatting climate change:

I am encouraged by the adoption of two human rights resolutions on human rights and climate change last year. The resolutions identify and reaffirm the threats posed by climate change to the enjoyment of human rights. For countries like small-island states, they correspond to the right to life.
— H.E. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, also underscored in a video message how the Council, in the face of the climate crisis, can play a key role in a strengthened multilateralism:

Today, more than ever, we need a stronger multilateral system anchored in human rights in all its diversity and universality. That is a driving force for Our Common Agenda. This Council will play a critical role in making it a reality.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres

To achieve this, both the UNGA President and the UN Secretary-General highlighted the importance of strengthening the links between Geneva and New York through greater collaborative and political will.

Together we can and we will further strengthen our links and synergies between Geneva and New York, and make sure that human rights are recognized as central to resolve our most pressing challenges, as outlined in my Call to Action for Human Rights.

This event was livestreamed on UN TV.

Climate Change and Human Rights

Climate change is an existential threat for people and the planet. Its harmful effects undermine the full enjoyment and realization of all human rights, disproportionately affecting those who are already in vulnerable situations. Over the past years, the Human Rights Council took on resolutions and discussions on specific aspects of climate change, while Special Rapporteurs (SR) contributed with reports on specific thematic angles within their mandates.

Mandate of SR on Human Rights and Climate Change

At its 48th session in October 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change (resolution 48/14). Thanks to efforts of the core group behind resolution 47/24, the possibility of creating a new special procedure addressing the adverse impact of climate change was placed on the agenda of the Council, and was adopted with 42 votes in favor, 1 against, and 4 abstentions.

In its 49th Session, the Council has appointed Ian Fry (Tuvalu) as the first mandate holder for this procedure for a period of three years. The mandate of the independent expert is to

… study and identify how the adverse effects of climate change, including sudden and slow onset disasters, affect the full and effective enjoyment of human rights and make recommendations on how to address and prevent these adverse effects.

The Council also requested the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council to conduct a study and to prepare a report, in close cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, on the impact of new technologies for climate protection on the enjoyment of human rights to be submitted at the 54th session of the Council.

First Report of SR Climate

As part of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate to report annually to the Council, the HRC will consider the Rapporteur’s first report at this session (forthcoming link: A/HRC/50/39). An advanced unedited version of the report has been made available on the website.

The report has identified six thematic priorities that the Special Rapporteur will focus on during his mandate:

  1. The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of mitigation, adaptation, and financial actions to address climate change, with particular emphasis on loss and damage;
  2. Addressing the human rights implications of climate change displacement including legal protection of people displaced across international borders;
  3. Exploring approaches to enhance climate change legislation, supporting climate change litigation and advancing the principal of intergenerational justice;
  4. Corporate accountability with respect to human rights and climate change;
  5. The protection of human rights through just transition for workers in industries that contribute to climate change; and
  6. Exploring the impacts of new technologies associated with climate change mitigation on human rights.

Highlights

The independent expert is presented his first report to the Council on 23 June 2022. Here are some highlights of the interactive dialogue from Twitter.

Panel Discussion and Report: Human rights of people in vulnerable situations in the context of climate change

In resolution 47/24, the Human Rights Council decided to incorporate in its 50th session a panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by people in vulnerable situations, took place on 28 June 2022. Within the same resolution, the Council also requested the Secretary-General to submit a report in the 50th session on the topic. The Council considered the report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/50/57).

Highlights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

A safe and stable climate is an integral component of the right to a healthy environment, a right that was recognised by this Council in resolution 48/13.

— UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

  • High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet opened the panel by highlighting how a “safe and stable climate” is intrinsically linked to the right to a healthy environment. Various social and economic factors increases the risk of people already in vulnerable situations, including indigenous people, local and rural communities, peasants, migrants, children, women, and persons with disabilities.
  • She highlighted that emission reductions and scaled up adaptation can only be fully effective when it integrates the perspectives of people in vulnerable situations.
  • The High Commissioner also “cannot overstate” the critical contribution of environmental human rights defenders to these efforts, and underscored the need to better protect them.
  • She finally highlighted the important role of climate finance with a human rights-based approach to ensure that support will be accessible to those most in need. As such she called upon States to enhance international cooperation and assistance, including climate finance, in support of developing countries vulnerable to climate change.

SR Climate Change

  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change, Ian Fry, highlighted a growing tide of people displaced by the impacts of climate change, calling it “an intolerable human rights tragedy.” This is further compounded for those who face a disproportionate amount of risk due to different forms of discrimination, such as racism, sexism and classism.
  • He stressed the need to provide resources to support activities that focus on inclusive climate action, paying attention to particularly to identifying and sharing good practices and lessons learned. He emphasized on providing spaces for more meaningful participation of indigenous people, and giving the platform for children and youth to share their experiences.
  • After seeing “considerable pushback” from States in supporting a new financial facility for loss and damage, he strongly encouraged everyone to support this. Highlighting the significant role that businesses also have to play, he underscores that

Businesses must change. We need to develop a model of corporate that is far more responsible for the rights of everyone. Business accountability is one of these themes I will be considering in my mandate.  If the corporate sector does not take urgent action and responsibility for growing greenhouse gas emissions more people will suffer.

— Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change

Side Events

SR climate and numerous stakeholders working at the forefront of climate change and human rights in Geneva and abroad spoke in various side events on how we can better address climate justice and achieve the results needed in the upcoming climate negotiations.

Business and Human Rights

Human rights and the environment are intrinsically intertwined. If we are to tackle environmental challenges without leaving anyone behind, the private sector must respect both the environment and environmental rights, and ensure they are not violated in their conduct of business operations and beyond.

Working Group on Business and Human Rights

The Human Rights Council will consider various reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. This includes a report on the “Tenth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs): a roadmap for the next decade of business and human rights – raising the ambition, increasing the pace” (A/HRC/50/40/Add.3).

In the tenth anniversary of the unanimous endorsement by the Council of the UNGPs in July 2021, the Working Group took stock of the first decade of its implementation. The stocktaking is followed by a report — “UNGPs 10+ Roadmap for the next decade“– that sets out eight key action areas for the road ahead and for progressively getting closer to fuller UNGPs realization in the next ten years.

Highlighting successes and challenges in environmental rights, environmental protection, environmental human rights defenders, and businesses tackling climate change, the roadmap highlights the need to “raise the ambition and increase pace to realize business respect for human rights.”

“The road to sustainable development, just green transition and responsible recovery goes through respect for people and the planet. (A/HRC/50/40/Add.3/par.3)”

ISHR and other stakeholders are urging all States to make a commitment to the systematic monitoring of attacks on indigenous, land and environmental defenders in their countries, and to take stronger action, together with civil society and relevant UN Special Procedures, to address the root causes of attacks.

A debate with the Working Group discussing these issues is due took place on 21 June 2022.

Other Report

The Council will also consider the following report that have made references to environment and human rights:

  • A/HRC/50/40 | The coronavirus disease pandemic: lessons learned and moving forward
    The report emphasizes on the need to ensure a sustainable people-centered approach while combating the pandemic and other crises, including conflict, climate change, environmental pollution and human rights challenges stemming from injustices and growing inequalities.

Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equality

The importance of gender equality for a sustainable future has been established in SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. However, it is not a stand-alone objective; rather, gender equality is important for the achievement of other global goals, including those related to environmental challenges and the full realization of human rights.

Report: Girls’ and young women’s activism

The Human Rights Council will be considering the report of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls regarding the important contributions made by girls and young women from different regions and backgrounds (A/HRC/50/25).

The report will also highlight their contribution to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of human rights, along with the profound transformative potential of their activism, as seen in local to international movements in environmental justice to climate action engaged by girls and young women. The interactive dialogue took place on 16 June 2022.

Report: Violence against indigenous women and girls

Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 41/17, the Human Rights Council will also be considering the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Reem Alsalem, on causes, manifestations and consequences of gender-based violence against indigenous women and girls (A/HRC/50/26).

The independent expert particularly highlights the gender-based violence that arises from the climate crisis and environmental degradation:

Indigenous women and girls are additionally specifically affected by the climate crisis, environmental degradation, industrial-scale agriculture and extractive industries and projects, and face an elevated risk of health problems, including reproductive health problems and high infant mortality rates associated with environmental contamination and degradation, leading to the loss of their traditional and spiritual ways of life, affecting their cultural identity and livelihood, and pulling them into a cycle of impoverishment and exposure to gender-based violence.

In the dialogue that took place on 20 June 2022, the Special Rapporteur highlighted that as the world faces the existential climate crisis and as the nexus among gender, justice and the climate crisis is being explored more, the first report of the independent expert in October to the Council will be an attempt to further this collective understanding of this relationship. Several members of the Council have also highlighted the intersectional aspects of violence, particularly those of environmental human rights defenders, raises the risks faced by indigenous women and girls.

Annual Full-Day Discussion on the Human Rights of Women | Panel 1: Exploring the nexus between climate change and violence against women and girls through a human rights lens

In its resolution 6/30, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed the principle of gender equality and the need for the full implementation of the human rights of women and decided to hold an annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women. The first panel of the 2022 annual discussion explored the interlinkages between climate change and violence against women and girls through a human rights lens, aimed to increase awareness of the human rights framework applicable to such a nexus, and discussed challenges and promising practices in this regard.

In an opening statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she highlights that though climate change threatens us all, “it is women and girls who often suffer its harshest and most violent consequences.” As such, she calls on the international community to focus as well on this grave issue:

While I welcome the international attention on climate change’s impact on women and girls over the last decade, we must urgently also focus on the grave issue of violence against them which has been exacerbated by the climate crisis.

As we strive today to look at this issue with a human rights lens, we need to ensure that climate change policies and approaches place the human rights of women and girls front and centre.

— Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

In order to leave no one behind, she highlights five urgent steps that we must take:

  1. Recognition and acknowledgement that climate change and violence against women are linked;
  2. Equal, full and effective participation and leadership of women on climate issues;
  3. Strengthening the design and effective implementation of gender-responsive environmental and disaster risk reduction policies, programmes and budgets by States;
  4. Enhancing accountability frameworks; and
  5. Taking urgent steps to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights obligations to women and girls, and in particular women environmental human rights defenders.

Other Themes

Report: Trafficking in persons in the agriculture sector

Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 44/4, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Siobhán Mullally, provides a report on the high levels of informality, lack of oversight and protection, trafficking in persons causing serious concern within the agricultural sector (A/HRC/50/33).

Agriculture, and specifically intensive agriculture, is contributing negatively to climate change, reflecting the wider nexus between trafficking in persons, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis. The report highlights the importance of mandatory human rights and environment due diligence measures to combat trafficking in persons within the agriculture sector to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The interactive dialogue took place on 21 June 2022, 10:00-12:00 CEST.

Report: Panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples

The Council will have before it the report of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples held at the forty-eighth session  (A/HRC/50/48). Providing a summary of the proceedings of the annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples, the report highlights the increase in violence in environmental and indigenous human rights defenders.

Report: Panel discussion on the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations

The Council will have before it the report of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the intersessional panel discussion on the experiences and rights of migrants in vulnerable situations (A/HRC/50/52). Providing a summary of the proceedings of the annual half-day panel discussion, the report points out that the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation were highlighted as significant drivers of migration.

Events

Interactive dialogue with WG on discrimination against women

17 June 2022, 10:45-13:00 & 15:00-15:45 CEST

Interactive dialogue with SR on trafficking

21 June 2022, 12:00-13:00 CEST & 22 June, 12:00-13:00 CEST

Climate Change Induced Displacement | HRC50 Side Event

22 June 2022, 13:00-14:30 CEST | Geneva Interfaith Forum & GeCCco | In-person & Online

Interactive dialogue with SR Climate

23 June, 15:00-18:00 CEST

The Rights Holders’ Challenges Facing Climate Change | HRC50 Side Event

24 June, 13:30-15:00 CEST | GeCCco & GEN | Online

Realising gender equality in the realisation of the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation | HRC50 Side Event

24 June 2022, 14:00-15:00 CEST | EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva | Rue du Grand Pré 66

Reports

  • A/HRC/50/25 | Girls’ and young women’s activism
  • A/HRC/50/26 | Violence against indigenous women and girls
  • A/HRC/50/33 | Trafficking in persons in the agriculture sector: human rights due diligence and sustainable development
  • A/HRC/50/39 | Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change (forthcoming)
  • A/HRC/50/40 | The coronavirus disease pandemic: lessons learned and moving forward
  • A/HRC/50/40/Add.3 | Tenth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: a roadmap for the next decade of business and human rights – raising the ambition, increasing the pace”
  • A/HRC/50/48 | Panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples
  • A/HRC/50/52 | Summary of the intersessional panel discussion on the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations
  • A/HRC/50/57 | The impacts of climate change on the human rights of people in vulnerable situations – Report of the Secretary-General (forthcoming)

Resolutions

  • Human Rights and Climate Change |  Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam

Call for Submissions

Special Procedures

The special procedure mandate-holders are independent human rights experts who help advance human rights, by reporting and advancing from a country-specific or thematic perspective, some of which are related to the environment. Calls for submissions are made to help mandate-holders prepare their reports to the Human Rights Council.

Links and Resources

News

Past HRC Sessions

Environment @ HRC49 | Environment @ HRC48 | Environment @ HRC47 | Environment @ HRC46 | Environment @ HRC45 | Environment @ HRC44 | Environment @ HRC43

Who to Follow on Twitter

#HRC50

@UN_HRC | UN Human Rights Council
@FVillegasARG | H.E. Amb. Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva, President of the Human Rights Council in 2022
@UNHumanRights | The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights)
@mbachelet | United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
@SRclimatechange | Ian Fry, SR human rights & climate change
@ISHRglobal | The International Service for Human Rights
@FranciscansIntl | Franciscans International
@Geneva_Academy | Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
@hrw | Human Rights Watch
@URGthinktank | Universal Rights Group (URG)
@YvesLador | Special Representative of Earthjustice in Geneva
@duycks | Senior Attorney – Climate and Energy Programme at the Center for International Environmental Law
@katha_nina | Katharina Rall, Senior environment researcher at HumanRights Watch
@ChildRightsCnct | Child Rights Connect
@CERI_Coalition |
Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI)
@CRINwire | Child Rights International Network