The adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights

November 24, 2008

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom thanks the Special Rapporteur for his report and welcomes the thematic focus on the right to information and participation.

We urge states, as the protectors of their citizen’s human rights, such as the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to food, to inform and consult their citizens before decisions to accept toxic waste or to build weapons complexes or especially, nuclear facilities are taken.  Time and again, the precautionary principle has been compromised in favour of short term profit or in the name of national security.  For example, plans for the construction of a bio-weapons research laboratory in Boston remain in place, threatening to impose an unwanted and dangerous facility on local stakeholders who have now have been driven to legal proceedings to preserve their human security. Whether in the research and development of weapons, the use of weapons or in the aftermath of conflict, a direct link between militarism and toxic pollution has been established and citizens have the right to information on how to best protect themselves at all stages.

In cases where information on the health and environmental effects of certain weapons or substances is unknown or contested, it is crucial that the precautionary principle be applied.  We welcome the approval of the UN First Committee resolution (A/C.1/62/L.18/Rev.1) entitled ‘Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium’ that calls on member states to re-examine the health hazards posed by the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions. We support the decision of the US judiciary, granting veterans the legal right sue the US government for exposing them to DU in Iraq, and the 170 million Euro compensation package awarded by Italy to its veterans. However, we wonder where the compensation for local victims of DU poisoning in the Gulf region will come from.

We share the Rapporteur’s concern that women and children, overrepresented amongst the poorest in developing countries, are particularly at risk from the transfer of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, and are also the least likely to have access to information on the dangers of searching waste dumps for recyclable materials or of working in polluting industries (paragraph 20).  We too urge a gender focus in measures taken to combat harmful exposure to toxic products and wastes.

Thank you Mr. President.

Chemical Weapons Human Rights International Human Rights Council UNHCR Statement

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