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The link between human rights and the environment has become an emerging theme. Several UN reports demonstrate how environmental degradation and global warming can undermine basic economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political rights.

The UN Human Rights Council has recognized the human rights-environment nexus in several resolutions and created the mandate of a UN Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. A 2019 report from the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights found that global warming is likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food and housing – but also democracy and the rule of law.

In 2018, about 28 million persons around the world have been forcibly displaced by conflict and disaster including floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts. Climate change is one of the root causes of a growing migration phenomenon, which may exacerbated existing trends, tensions and instability for the people.

The Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals incorporate the interconnection between environment, development and human rights objectives. The Paris Agreement is the first climate change convention to include a human rights reference.

While there is a large international consensus on the human rights-environment nexus, the implementation of environmental protection norms and their balancing with economic interests are marked by political controversies and litigation, and increasingly violence and repression. Human rights defenders who work to protect the environment and combat climate change are particularly affected by the closing space for civil society and exposed to repression from actors who benefit from the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

The Forum will explore what role the EU can play in advancing a fair environmental future which builds on and promotes the protection of human rights for all.

The Forum will address these topics through three key entry points:

Access to information and participation are critical to informed decision making on environmental issues and for accountability. The forum will explore existing tools and challenges for enabling informed and human rights based decision making on environmental issues.

Due diligence and access to justice. The forum will explore approaches to prevent and address adverse human rights impacts and environmental risks of policies and projects and ways to empower those negatively impacted to seek justice and have redress to independent courts.

Empowering and protecting human right defenders working on environmental issues. The forum will discuss strategies for strengthening the protection and empowerment of those defending the environment and addressing climate change.

Particular attention will be paid to specific groups such as indigenous peoples, women and youth.

Objectives of the EU - NGO Forum

  • Understand emerging challenges on the human rights-environment nexus.
  • Review and reflect on existing EU and other international and regional policy responses and best practices.
  • Assess how the EU's human rights toolbox can be more effectively utilized and further developed to address specific challenges in the field of human rights and environment/ climate change.
  • Explore how international environmental law can be further developed to protect the right to a healthy environment.
  • Foster connections, exchanges, partnerships and skills development.

Format and participants

Two days of participatory discussions, including two plenary sessions with high-level decision makers, and interactive working groups looking at human rights obligations relating to a safe, clean and healthy environment.

Participants will include representatives from human rights and environmental NGOs working on the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living and other dimensions of the human rights-environment nexus at local or international level, environmental and human rights experts from EU institutions (including EU delegations), EU Member States and international organizations.