UN Human Rights Council recognises right to a healthy environment

Press release, 11.10.2021

The 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva ended on 11 October 2021 following intensive negotiations over more than a four week period. This year the Council adopted three initiatives put forward by Switzerland and its partner countries. One of the resolutions recognised the right to a healthy environment. The second initiative concerned the death penalty, focusing on the lack of transparency in its application and imposition. The third resolution concerned the elimination of child, early and forced marriage in times of crisis.

Switzerland successfully put forward three initiatives to the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Together with Costa Rica, Morocco, the Maldives and Slovenia, it presented a resolution calling on the Human Rights Council to recognise the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a separate human right. The resolution sends out an important political signal of the international community's intention to respond to the growing impact of environmental problems on a range of rights, including the right to health, water and food.

In conjunction with Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Moldova and Mongolia, Switzerland also presented a second initiative for the Council's biennial resolution on the death penalty. The 2021 resolution focused on the lack of transparency in the application and imposition of the death penalty. The purpose of the resolution is therefore to ensure that the application and imposition of the death penalty continues to decrease worldwide.  Switzerland, together with a supraregional group of eleven countries, also presented a resolution on eliminating child, early and forced marriage in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Switzerland called, in particular, for strongly worded resolutions on the right to health, the full and effective participation of women in decision-making processes, the role of civil society, and the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

In the context of a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age, Switzerland joined other countries in calling for strong safeguards for human rights in relation to the use of new technologies and, in particular, artificial intelligence.

Human rights situation in various countries

In addition to addressing thematic priorities, Switzerland also focused on the human rights situation in various countries.  It issued a statement expressing concern over the situation in Afghanistan and calling on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights. Switzerland backed the resolution put forward by the EU calling for the establishment of a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan. During the negotiations, Switzerland also argued strongly in favour of extending the mandate of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya and the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen. Switzerland regrets that the Human Rights Council has rejected the resolution on the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Experts on Yemen.

In discussions with UN experts, Switzerland expressed concerns about the situation in various countries, including Burundi, Myanmar, Venezuela and Belarus, calling for the protection of human rights and, in particular, for the release of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained. Switzerland also issued joint statements with other countries on the specific human rights situations in Nicaragua and Ethiopia, for example.

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