Environment @ 53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Last updated: 09 Jun 2023
The 53rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC53) will take place in Geneva from 19 June to 14 July 2023. This page highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.
The 53rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council will take place from 19 June to 14 July 2023. The Council proceedings could be followed on UN TV. The meeting summaries are available on the UN Geneva website and the live-updated programme of work on Sched.
Human Rights and the Environment: Meeting on Activities Related to HRC53
In order to develop more synergies among stakeholders and a better outreach on the environmental agenda of HRC53, including the activities taking place in parallel to the Council’s session, the Geneva Environment Network and its partners convened an information-sharing session on 25 May 2023, from 9:00 – 10:00 CEST. This event discussed and share information on planned environment-related activities at and around HRC53, such as in person and online events, publications, or exhibitions, among others, and exchange on possible synergies. They feed this page on HRC53 which provides an up-to-date calendar of these environment-related events. → Share information on your activity!
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.
Providing legal options to protect the human rights of persons displaced across international borders due to climate change
The Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change will present to the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council his report on the human rights implications of climate change displacement including the provision of legal protection for people displaced across international borders (A/HRC/53/34), which is one of the thematic issues identified by the UN Special Rapporteur.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre data, nearly 1,900 disasters triggered 24.9 million new displacements across 140 countries and territories in 2019. This is the highest figure recorded since 2012 and three times the number of displacements caused by conflict and violence.
It would appear — following an emblematic case of a Kiribati citizen deported from New Zealand after claiming refugee status due to climate change — that persons displaced across international borders are not defined as refugees under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Subsequently, there appears to be no legal definition for a climate change refugee. Consequently, there are limited legal protections for people displaced across international borders as a consequence of being forcibly displaced by climate change. This means that these people may be deprived of their human rights and makes them prone to exploitation and suffering.
Consistent with the mandate, through the report, the Special Rapporteur is exploring legal actions to provide appropriate human rights protections for people displaced by climate change. This includes people internally displaced within their own country and those that are displaced across international borders as a consequence of climate change.
An interactive dialogue with the independent expert is taking place on 27 June 2023. The Special Rapporteur will also present his report on his country visit to Bangladesh (A/HRC/53/34/Add.1), where a number of linkages were made between the issue of climate change loss and damage and the implications for human rights.
Panel Discussion | Adverse impact of climate change on the full realization of the right to food for all people
Following resolution HRC/50/L.10/Rev.1, the Annual Panel will be convened in HRC53, focusing on the adverse impact of climate change on the full realization of the right to food for all people and ways forward to address the challenges thereto, as well as on best practices and lessons learned, including science-based approaches and local and indigenous knowledge. The panel discussion is taking place on 3 July 2023.
Interactive Dialogue | Secretary-General’s report on climate change
An interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report on climate change will also take place on 3 July 2023.
The Special Rapporteur and numerous stakeholders working at the forefront of climate change and human rights in Geneva and abroad will speak in various side events on how we can better address climate justice and achieve the results needed in the upcoming climate negotiations.
Protecting Defenders | Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly
Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) are those who strive to protect, promote and safeguard a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, as recognized in HRC Resolution 40/11. From the local to the international level, the efforts of EHRDs have provoked responses to the three interlinked environmental crises afflicting our planet – the loss of biodiversity, pollution, and climate change. However, evidence suggests that they remain highly vulnerable and under attack across the globe.
Sustainable development and freedom of expression: Why voice matters
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, will be presenting her annual report to the Council on “Sustainable development and freedom of expression: why voice matters” (A/HRC/53/25). The report explores the linkages between the right to freedom of expression, including the right to information, and sustainable development, and introduces a paradigm shift in looking at sustainable development through the lens of freedom of expression.
Against a background of rising authoritarianism and shrinking civic space, journalists, environmental activists, trade unionists and human rights defenders are threatened, attacked and killed in many countries. The voices of young people calling for gender equality and social, economic, environmental, and climate justice are crushed. Individuals, communities, and civil society organizations are blocked from effective participation in decision-making processes. Where public participation occurs, often it is uninformed and tokenistic, more performative than participatory.
While recognizing important progress made in normative standards for access to information, the Special Rapporteur highlights that more is needed to ensure that the voices of those most disadvantaged in society are heard. She argues that only when both access to information and the effective participation of youth, Indigenous communities, the media, human rights defenders, civil society actors and others are fulfilled will the promise to leave no one behind be realized, especially in the context of environmental protection.
An interactive dialogue with the independent expert is taking place on 23 June 2023.
Advancing accountability for serious human rights violations related to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément N. Voule, will present his thematic report to be presented at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, on advancing accountability for serious human rights violations related to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/53/38).
The lack of accountability for serious human rights violations against activists linked to their association, as well as in the context of peaceful protests, is a worrying persistent pattern across the world. This widespread impunity has created a chilling effect for the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and has emboldened the perpetrators while increasing the repression and suppression of these rights.
According to the Global Analysis 2022 from Frontline Defenders, around 48% of 401 defenders killed were protecting land, environmental, and Indigenous peoples’ rights, while 22% were Indigenous. In response to recent government response to protests, Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders of the Aarhus Convention, also stated in an editorial that the criminalization of environmental defenders is not an adequate response to civil disobedience. He also asks that discussions start taking into account why defenders are using civil disobedience and how authorities need to adapt accordingly.
In this context, the report aims to examine the persistent impunity for attacks and serious human rights violations committed by State and non-State actors in the context of the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
An interactive dialogue with the independent expert is taking place on 28 June 2023.
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 transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights
The Council will consider various reports of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. More information to follow.
Women’s 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.
Exploring the nexus between climate change and violence against women and girls through a human rights lens
In accordance with its resolutions 6/30 and 47/15, the Human Rights Council convened its annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women on 27 June 2022. The discussion was divided into two panels, with the first on “Exploring the nexus between climate change and violence against women and girls through a human rights lens”.
The Council will have before it the report of OHCHR on the annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women (A/HRC/53/41), which is taking place on 30 June 2023.
On the Sidelines of HRC53: Related Activities
Other events and activities related to environment and human rights taking place in Geneva, in the margins of the Human Rights Council, will be listed here.
Human Rights and the Environment: Meeting on Activities Related to 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council | Info-sharing Session
25 May 2023 | 9:00 – 10:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room H-307-1 & Online
Geneva Environment Network
Organizational meeting for the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council
5 June 2023 | 10:00 – 18:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Climate Displacement Discussion with Activists | Link to follow
20 June 2023 | TBC | Palais des Nations, Room TBC
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung & Climate, Migration and Displacement Platform
Rights of Future Generations | Link to follow
21 June 2023 | TBC | Palais des Nations, Room TBC
CIEL & FIAN International
Interactive Dialogue with SR on right to freedom of opinion and expression
23 June 2023 | 10:00 – 13:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
What is Habitability? Climate change and human rights
26 – 27 June 2023 | 14:00 – 18:00 CEST & 13:00 – 14:00 | International Environment House & Palais des Nations, Room TBC
Interactive Dialogue with WG on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights
26 – 27 June 2023 | 15:00 – 18:00 CEST & 10:00 – 13:00 | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Interactive Dialogue with SR on human rights and climate change
27 June 2023 | 15:00 – 18:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Challenges on the Legal Protection of Climate-Induced Displacement: Sharing grassroots’ perspectives | Link to follow
28 June 2023 | 13:00 – 14:00 CEST (TBC) | Palais des Nations, Room (TBC) & Online
Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights (GIF)
TBC | Climate Induced Displacement – from the perspective of the Americas region | Link to follow
28 June 2023 | 15:00 – 16:00 CEST (TBC) | Palais des Nations, Room (TBC) & Online
Annual panel discussion on the human rights of women
30 June 2023 | 16:00 – 18:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Annual Panel on Adverse Impacts of Climate Change
3 July 2023 | 10:00 – 12:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Interactive Dialogue on SG report on climate change
3 July 2023 | 15:00 – 16:00 CEST | Palais des Nations, Room XX & Online
Reports presented at HRC53 relating to the global environmental agenda will be listed below. The full list of reports can be consulted on the HRC website.
- A/HRC/53/25 | Sustainable development and freedom of expression: why voice matters | SR on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
- A/HRC/53/34 | Providing legal options to protect the human rights of persons displaced across international borders due to climate change | SR on climate change and human rights
- A/HRC/53/34/Add.1 | Visit to Bangladesh | SR on climate change and human rights
- A/HRC/53/38 | Advancing accountability for serious human rights violations related to the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association | SR on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
- A/HRC/53/41 | Annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women | OHCHR
- A/HRC/53/47 | Adverse impact of climate change on the full realization of the right to food | UN Secretary-General
Resolutions relating to the global environmental agenda adopted at this session are listed here. The resolutions (found on the HRC53 website) for this session will be listed below.
A summary of actions on the resolutions will be provided by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.
Call for Submissions
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
- 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council
- GCHRAGD | Updates on HRC53
- ISHR | HRC53 | Key issues on agenda
- URG | Inside Track: HRC53
- GEN | Human Rights and the Environment
Past HRC Sessions
Environment @ HRC52 | Environment @ HRC51 | Environment @ HRC50 | Environment @ HRC49 | Environment @ HRC48 | Environment @ HRC47 | Environment @ HRC46 | Environment @ HRC45 | Environment @ HRC44 | Environment @ HRC43
Who to Follow on Twitter
@UN_HRC | UN Human Rights Council
@BichlerMarc | H.E. Amb. Marc Bichler, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council in 2023
@mkah | H.E. Amb. Muhammadou M.O Kah, Permanent Representative of the Gambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council in 2023
@Asim_mv | H.E. Amb. Asim Ahmed, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council in 2023
@UNHumanRights | The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights)
@volker_turk | UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
@NadaNashif | United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
@SREnvironment | David Boyd, SR on human rights & the environment
@SRclimatechange | Ian Fry, SR on human rights & climate change
@SRtoxics | Marcos Orellana, SR on toxics and human rights
@RelatorDd | José Francisco Calí Tzay, SR indigenous peoples
@SRWatSan | Pedro Arrojo Agudo, SR on rights to water and sanitation
@MichaelFakhri | Michael Fakhri | SR on right to food
@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 Human Rights Watch
@ChildRightsCnct | Child Rights Connect
@CERI_Coalition | Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI)
@CRINwire | Child Rights International Network