UNITED NATIONS
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Fifty-first
Agenda item 19

Statement of International Educational Development,
a non-governmental organization on the Roster
(Secretary-General's List)

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The Sub-Commission, in its draft resolution II recommended to the Commission, urged appointment by the Commission of a special rapporteur on human rights and the environment. (Sub-Commission report E/CN.4/1995/2 at p. 13). International Educational Development most strongly agrees with the sound counsel of the Sub-Commission on this issue.

Our support for a Commission-appointed rapporteur is based in part on our work with Sub-Commission rapporteur Fatma Zohra Ksentini. During the course of her study, Mme Ksentini met many times with representatives of non-governmental organizations, including International Educational Development. During our meetings with her and other non- governmental organizations it became increasingly apparent that:

(1) environmental factors are a significant barrier to the realization of human rights and are a major threat to the right to life if not the survival of the planet;

(2) little work had been done in the past in the international community to develop either critical legal thinking in these areas or in modifying existing mechanisms to incorporate human rights violations occurring directly or indirectly from environmental factors.

Mme Ksentini's final report (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/9) presented to the Sub-Commission at its 1994 session provides a solid basis for continued work. It is comprehensive, thoughtful and in its ability to inform even those completely unaware of the issues is a stunning achievement. This report should receive the highest possible dissemination and should be
thoughtfully studied by members of this Commission.

There are far too many valuable sections of this report to single out any in particular. Indeed, the report should be read as an integrated whole. In that light we underline the importance of Mme Ksentini's introductory comments when at paragraph 5 she sets out her conviction that work in this area

"will reinforce channels of dialogue, discussion and cooperation nationally, regionally and internationally., thereby making it possible to define mutually agreed component of this right [to a sound environment] as well as its harmonious application, in conformity with the universally recognized fundamental principles of human rights." (Report at para. 5, p. 3).

This statement of Rapporteur Ksentini represents both her personal commitment and what we hope will be the guiding principle of cooperation rather than confrontation for the Commission's rapporteur on human rights and the environment: except for emergency situations, condemnation of situations should be limited to serious offenders showing little or no interest in cooperation or dialogue. In our view, Mme Ksentini's call for harmonious application of the right to a sound environment is possible in many situations through what we call the cornerstone rights of the right to a sound environment: information, education, and participation.

Mme Ksentini has generated great expectation among the many non- governmental organizations and governments who participated with her in the course of her work. International Educational Development has experienced first-hand a dramatic surge of interest in this issue world-wide that can be a great help to a Commission rapporteur and to the realization of human rights in general.