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5 Jul 2022

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Michel Forst is the first Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders elected under Aarhus Convention

"World’s first Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders elected under the Aarhus Convention", 24 June 2022

The Meeting of the Parties to the ... Aarhus Convention ... has elected, by consensus, Mr. Michel Forst as the world’s first Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders. 

The Special Rapporteur’s role – which is operational with immediate effect – is to take measures to protect any person experiencing or at imminent threat of penalization, persecution, or harassment for seeking to exercise their rights under the Aarhus Convention. 

This is the first such mechanism specifically safeguarding environmental defenders...

Environmental defenders are vital to the preservation of the environment, yet are under threat in many countries around the world. Under article 3 (8) of the Aarhus Convention, Parties shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of the Convention shall not be penalized, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement. However, Parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders have reported numerous cases in which environmental defenders have experienced surveillance, heavy fines, dismissal from employment, threats and intimidation, criminalization, detention, violence, and even murder. 

Any member of the public, Party to the Aarhus Convention, or the secretariat can submit a complaint to the Special Rapporteur. Taking into consideration that time is of the essence when it comes to the safety of environmental defenders, a complaint may be filed even if domestic remedies ... have not yet been exhausted. Information submitted to the Special Rapporteur will be kept confidential unless the complainant explicitly waives this right...

The Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders can be contacted at [email protected]

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