Last updated: 23 Sep 2023

The Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights reports every Fall to the Council and to the UN General Assembly on issues related to his mandate. The Geneva Toxic Free Talks aim to harness this opportunity of this moment of the year to reflect on the challenges posed by the production, use and dissemination of toxics and on how Geneva contributes to bringing together the actors working in reversing the toxic tide.

About the Geneva Toxic Free Talks

Out of the three interrelated environmental crises we are facing — climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution — the wide intoxication of our planet and of our bodies through multiple ways of contamination, is the one that today remains in the shadow. Notably, it’s covered by several specific treaties but does not have a global instrument, like the UNFCCC for climate change or the CBD for the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Geneva: Global Hub for Tackling Toxics

Among the specific treaties are a number of international instruments and institutions exist, such as the Basel Convention which regulates wastes, the Stockholm Convention on eliminating persistent organic pollution or the Rotterdam Convention which enforces prior informed consent for international trade of hazardous chemicals. The Secretariat of these three conventions are located in Geneva, which also hosts the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Other Geneva-based UN institutions, most notably WHO and ILO, are also concerned and trying to regulate the use of toxic substances.

With the strong presence of such organizations, Geneva is a central place for those struggling against the threat of contamination from toxic substances.

Tackling Toxics @ HRC54

The Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights reports every fall to the Council and to the UN General Assembly on issues related to his mandate. The Geneva Toxic Free Talks aim to harness the opportunity of this moment of the year to reflect on the challenges posed by the production, use, and dissemination of toxics and on how Geneva contributes to bringing together the actors working in reversing the toxic tide.

On the sidelines of HRC54, this year’s Toxic Free Talks took place from 20 to 22 September 2023 — three days of conferences and discussions, highlighting the work of the Special Rapporteur and of organizations in the struggle for the right to live in a toxic-free environment.

Wednesday 20 September

Thursday 21 September

Friday 22 September

Highlights and Key Messages

Previous Geneva Toxic Free Talks

HRC51 | 25 Years of the Mandate on Toxics and Human Rights

Since 1995, we can also add to the list the mandate given by the UN Human Rights Council to a Special Rapporteur to look at how toxic hazardous substances and their lifecycles can have impacts on the enjoyment of human rights.

As the Special Rapporteur reports every Fall to the Council and to the UN General Assembly on these issues, Earthjustice and its partners take this opportunity 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.

On the sidelines of the 51st regular session of the Human Rights Council, this year’s Toxic Free Talks took place over two days of conferences and discussions, celebrating 25 years of the mandate (as it was not possible to do so earlier due to the global pandemic) and the struggle for the right to live in a toxic free environment.

Highlights and Key Messages

You can find highlights of the two days on our Twitter and event pages. Watch this space for an upcoming summary!

Taking place on the sidelines of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, the Toxic Free Talks celebrated 25 years of the mandate and the struggle for the right to live in a toxic free environment.

21 September | 25 years of Struggle to be Free from Toxic Threat

Rights Holders Facing Toxic Threats | 25 Years of Struggle to be Free from Toxic Threat | Geneva Toxic Free Talks

21 September 2022 | 13:30–15:00 CEST | Centre Administratif de Varembé & Online | Webex

Reception for the 25 years of the mandate on toxics and human rights

21 September 2022 | 20:00 CEST | Centre Administratif de Varembé

22 September | Dialogues on Repairing Toxic Damages

Getting Rid of Toxics: The Nonpolluting Alternatives | Repairing Toxic Damages | Geneva Toxic Free Talks

22 September 2022 | 13:30–15:00 CEST | Centre Administratif de Varembé & Online | Webex

The Challenge of Warfare and War Zones’ Toxicity | Repairing Toxic Damages | Geneva Toxic Free Talks

22 September 2022 | 15:30–17:00 CEST | Centre Administratif de Varembé & Online | Webex

HRC48

In 2021, after the important Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution in Geneva, two events were scheduled that presented the reports of the Special Rapporteur to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council:

The right to science in the context of toxic substances

HRC48 Side Event | 22 September 2021 | 13.30 – 15.00 CEST | Online

Plastics and Human Rights

HRC48 Side Event | 23 September 2021 | 13.30 – 15.00 CEST | Online

Links

HRC Sessions Tackling Toxics

Environment @ HRC54 | Environment @ HRC51 | Environment @ HRC48