Professor John Knox named first United Nations Human Right Council special rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Photo of Wake Forest Law Professor John Knox

Professor John Knox, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest Law Professor John Knox has been named the first special rapporteur on human rights and the environment to the United Nations. Knox has served as the first Independent Expert on human rights and the environment to the United Nations since 2012.¬†

On March 9, Professor Knox presented his annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Rapporteur” is a French-derived word for an investigator who reports to a deliberative body. Special Rapporteur and Independent Expert are titles given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations¬† within the scope of “Special Procedures” mechanisms, who bear a specific mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council, either a country mandate or a thematic mandate.

The report describes more than 100 good practices of governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, corporations and others in the use of human rights obligations relating to the environment, including (a) procedural obligations to make environmental information public, to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making, to protect rights of expression and association, and to provide access to legal remedies; (b) substantive obligations, including obligations relating to non-State actors; (c) obligations relating to transboundary harm; and (d) obligations relating to those in vulnerable situations.

Download the entire report here: Annual Report to the Human Rights Council.

Knox is the Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law at Wake Forest University, where he teaches and writes on human rights law, environmental law, and their relationship with one another.

He received his law degree from Stanford University in 1987. After graduation, he worked as an attorney for the U.S. Department of State, where he participated in the negotiation of the Human Rights Defenders Declaration, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Since becoming a professor in 1998, he has advised a number of international and national bodies, including by serving as the chair of a national advisory committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as special counsel to the Center for International Environmental Law, and as a pro bono advisor on human rights and climate change to the Government of the Maldives.

For more information, visit his website and his faculty profile.