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15 Feb 2024

UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders under the Aarhus Convention

UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders under the Aarhus Convention: Statement in support of the adoption of the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence

As the draft European Union Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDDD or the Directive) is awaiting approval at the end of this week, I use this opportunity, in my capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders under the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), to reiterate the pivotal importance of the Directive and to call on all Member States to support its adoption.

As I highlighted in my letter to the Ambassadors of all European Union Member States dated 6 September 2023, the CSDDD has the potential to be a milestone Directive, showing a clear commitment by the European Union and its Member States to human rights and the promotion of sustainable business practices. In times where trust in public institutions is wavering, the European Union could stand out as a leader on the protection of human rights and thereby send a strong message to both the public and corporate actors as well as to non-Member States...

As I pointed out in my letter of 6 September 2023, I urge Member States to ensure the final text of the Directive expressly includes environmental defenders in the group of relevant stakeholders and as rights-holders in complaints mechanisms and that Annex, Part II, of the Directive expressly includes both the Aarhus Convention as a whole, and in particular articles 4, 6 and 9, as well as, separately, article 3 (8) of the Convention, which is the basis of my mandate as Special Rapporteur. Being at the forefront of raising awareness about the adverse human rights and environmental impacts caused by corporate wrongdoing, environmental defenders are at constant risk of reprisals and other forms of intimidation for their vital work. A failure to include environmental defenders expressly as a standalone group and to include article 3 (8) of the Aarhus Convention in the Annex, Part II, of the Directive would be a significant shortcoming and would overlook the vital role played by environmental defenders in holding corporate actors to account...