On the eve of the Third Intersessional Meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, I, on behalf of the Council of Canadians, joined 2 other organizations in calling for the Ms. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to use her mandate to protect human rights in the Rio+20 negotiations.

We did this after meeting an officer from the OHCHR’s New York office who we briefed on the dire situation of the negotiations. Below is the letter we sent.

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Ms Navanethem Pillay
March 25, 2012
The High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva
Switzerland

Re: Human Rights and the Rio+20 Outcome Document

Dear High Commissioner,

As observers in the process leading to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, we are extremely concerned by the systematic effort to exclude references to “human rights” in the Rio+20 Outcome Document. We believe that the Rio+20 Outcome Document must include agreed upon human rights norms and standards. We call on you to urgently express support for the inclusion of human rights in the Outcome Document at the Third Intersessional meeting of the UNCSD scheduled for the 26 and 27 of March at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Human Rights Council in its 19th Session (March 2012) adopted a resolution on Human Rights and Environment, which inter alia, “Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in order to promote a human rights perspective.” It is apparent that this Council resolution gives your Office a mandate to participate in the Rio+20 Conference, which necessarily includes participating in the official meetings where the Conference Outcome Document is being discussed. We believe that your Office’s mandate, as established in the Council’s resolution, includes the possibility of presenting oral statements and submitting written text. We further consider your intervention as a necessity given developments in the negotiations which are injurious to established human rights norms.

Human rights and environmental issues are inextricable linked in the context of Sustainable Development. In no uncertain terms, human rights protections are crucial for sustainable development outcomes. The Joint Statement of all the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, for example, called on States to incorporate universally agreed international human rights norms and standards in the Outcome Document of the Rio+20 Summit with a strong accountability mechanism to ensure its implementation. Similarly, Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Water and Sanitation has underlined that Rio+20 and post-2015 development goals should not betray the previous commitments on the right to water and sanitation.

We trust your mandate and commitment to human rights will inspire you to recognize the importance of supporting strong references to human rights in the Rio+20 Outcome Document. We also trust that your Office will be in a position to make a statement at the Third UNCSD Intersessional meeting in support of the inclusion of human rights principles and standards under the sustainable development framework being discussed in the lead-up to the Rio+20 UN Conference.

Sincerely,

Marcos Orellana - Center for International Law
Anil Naidoo – Council of Canadians
Paul Quintos – IBON Foundation

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