Professor John Knox appointed as United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment

Photo of Professor John Knox

Professor of International Law John Knox

Wake Forest Law Professor John Knox has been appointed as the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment.

The Human Rights Council last week appointed Knox as the “Independent Expert on the human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

The  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.

Knox 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, in an Earthjustice press release regarding the appointment. “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.”