• English

UNECE offers solutions for furthering human rights and transparency on hazardous substances and wastes

What do we know about our exposure to hazardous substances by using cosmetics, food, toys, furniture, electronics, building materials and other everyday items? Do we know what hazardous substances, and how much, are being released into the environment from industrial or agricultural sites close to our homes and workplaces or our children’s schools? And do we have any idea about the hazardous substances that we, ourselves, are releasing into the environment from our day-to-day activities?

The number of hazardous substances being produced, stored, used, released or disposed of is growing significantly — as is the concern about how well-known their effects are on human health and the environment and how effectively this information is being communicated and made accessible to the public.

These subjects were in the spotlight recently as the United Nations Human Rights Council heard the first full report from the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes on 16 September. His report highlighted the key challenges for exercising these rights and potential solutions to address them. UNECE cooperated closely with the Special Rapporteur on the preparation of the report.

The focus on improving access to information on hazardous substances and wastes is particularly timely in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the United Nations Summit in New York on 25 September. Goals 12 and 16 aim to reduce significantly the release of hazardous substances to air, water and soil and to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment. The Goals also foresee widening the accessibility of information on such releases.  

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Aarhus Convention, and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers offer solutions for strengthening human rights and transparency on hazardous substances and wastes thereby helping to achieve these SDGs. They provide solid frameworks for guaranteeing public rights to environmental information on polluting substances and wastes and imposing obligations on public authorities to collect, update, provide upon request and disseminate such information, including through an online database. Furthermore, both instruments offer global, multi-stakeholder platforms to exchange experience in this area, including the key topics addressed by the Special Rapporteur.

 

For further information, please contact: 

Ella Behlyarova
Secretary
Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation
in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and
Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers
Tel: + 41 (0)22 917 2376
E-mail: ella.behlyarova@unece.org

http://www.unece.org/env/pp/welcome.html