Earthjustice Lauds Appointment of John Knox as U.N. Independent Expert on Human Rights and Environment

Newly-created position important to fundamental human rights


Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098

Earthjustice welcomes the appointment of Professor John Knox as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.

The Human Rights Council last week appointed Professor John Knox as the “Independent Expert on the human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.” The U.N. Human Rights Council created this new mandate at its last session in April 2012, in response to a joint proposal from the Maldives, Costa-Rica and Switzerland.

The Independent Expert will be responsible for helping States understand their human rights obligations when dealing with environmental issues. This issue is increasingly important as States come to understand the impact of environmental degradations on the lives and the fundamental rights of people around the world. The Independent Expert’s work will also help to strengthen international recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Professor Knox is a law professor at the School of Law of Wake Forest University, where he teaches human rights, environmental protection, and international trade. He has extensive expertise in the fields of human rights, international environmental law, climate change and the relationship among these issues. He has worked with governments and non-governmental organizations in those areas. In 2003, he was awarded the Francis Deák Prize, established by the American Society of International Law.

“This is wonderful news for people around the world who suffer from the effects of environmental degradation on their ability to enjoy their most basic rights, such as the rights to life, water, adequate food and shelter, and culture,” said Yves Lador, Earthjustice’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “Professor Knox’s experience and expertise will make him a valuable ally in efforts to strengthen and implement the right to a healthy environment and to understand the obligation of nations to protect and defend that right.”

Earthjustice congratulates the new Independent Expert and looks forward to working with him to further the work begun by Ms. Fatima Ksentini, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment under the U.N. human rights framework that has now become the Human Rights Council.

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