In a ‘broken system,’ can the UN human rights machinery tilt the balance to help reverse rising inequalities?

by Amalia Ordóñez Vahí, Researcher, URG Inequality and social rights

‘We are going backwards, inequalities are skyrocketing, climate change is burning and pounding our planet, and the number of people living in severe poverty has risen, for the first time in a generation. […] The system is broken.’ These were the sombre words chosen by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, to open the Sixth Intersessional Meeting of the …

Human Rights Defenders Protection Act of 2024: US bill signals positive steps in the protection of Human Rights Defenders worldwide

by Tom Bicko Ooko Environmental human rights defenders

On Wednesday 31 January 2024, United States Senator Ben Cardin and Representative James McGovern introduced the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act of 2024, a bill that seeks to protect Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) facing retaliation globally for defending human rights and democracy. Notably, Senator Cardin was also the author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which established one of …

The end of the beginning: General Assembly recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group R2E, Thematic human rights issues

This article was originally published on Open Global Rights on February 1, 2024. The original article is accessible here . The UN Human Rights Council’s recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a political declaration that paves the way to establishing its legal meaning. In October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a …

Inequality takes centre stage at the Human Rights Council

by Amalia Ordóñez Vahí, Researcher, URG Inequality and social rights, Thematic human rights issues

We are living in ‘an age of massive concentration of wealth, and unprecedented inequalities,’ an ‘abyss [has opened] between rich and poor [that] harms everyone.’ With these words, pronounced in his opening global update  at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Volker Türk cast the spotlight on inequality, an issue that has been gaining ground in the human rights …

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Malawi, Gambia, Costa Rica, Fiji and Romania lead democracy push at the Human Rights Council

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group Democracy, Thematic human rights issues

On 11 July Ambassador Alexander Maisuradze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN in Geneva, delivered a cross-regional statement at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council calling on the body to assume a leadership role in the global reinvigoration of democracy. The statement, led by a group of main sponsors from Eastern Europe (Georgia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine), …

The Council of Europe and the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment

by Amalia Ordóñez Vahí, Researcher, URG R2E, Thematic human rights issues

On 16-17 May, the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe’s 46 members met at the Council’s  Fourth Summit  in Reykjavík to discuss the human rights impacts of current challenges, including the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and the development of new technologies. The Summit concluded with the adoption of the  Reykjavík Declaration , which laid out the Council’s commitment …

Building momentum towards the realisation of environmental rights in Africa

by Joseph Burke and Tom Bicko Ooko Environmental human rights defenders, Thematic human rights issues

In the powerful words of the global environmental icon,  Professor Wangari Maathai , ‘[t]here comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness so that she stops threatening its life-support system.’ The twin resolutions by the UN Human Rights Council (resolution  48/13 , adopted on 8 October 2021) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA) (resolution  76/300 , adopted on …

Twitter’s descent reminds us of the dangers of free speech absolutism

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group Misinformation, fake news, and hate speech, Thematic human rights issues

Free speech absolutists have not been having it their own way recently. A decade ago normative interpretations of freedom of expression under international human rights law and under relevant resolutions of the Human Rights Council were fairly finely balanced between the ‘anything goes’ ideology espoused by the United States (US) as well as by American human rights lawyers and experts …

COP27 and the centrality of human rights in climate action

by Amalia Ordóñez Vahí, Researcher, URG Climate, Thematic human rights issues

‘We’re on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator’ warned UN Secretary General, António Guterres, at the opening of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 7 November 2022. Guterres presented a grim dichotomy: ‘humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.’ COP27 was the first …

What now? Options for next steps following UN recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group, Lola Sanchez Arcos, Researcher, URG and Amalia Ordóñez Vahí, Researcher, URG R2E, Thematic human rights issues

Following the Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment (R2E), adopted in 2021 and 2022 respectively ( HRC/RES/48/13 and A/RES/76/300 ), it is time to consider appropriate next steps in advancing the legal recognition, implementation, and monitoring of this right. With the above in mind, on 18 October the Permanent Mission of …