Over 21-31 January 2007 the Government of Ukraine hosted the fact-finding mission by Mr. Okechukwu IBEANU, the UN Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, according to the UN Office in Ukraine. The mission was conducted in close cooperation between the Government of Ukraine and the United Nations Country Team in Ukraine.
During his mission, the UN Special Rapporteur met with the representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Emergencies, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, parliamentarians, legislators, civil society and UN agencies in Ukraine. To get first-hand information on the situation throughout the country, Mr. IBEANU visited Lviv, Uzhgorod, Novy Rozdil, Beregovo and such villages as Velyka Bakta, Muzhievo and Shom of Beregovo district on 23-25 January, where he discussed the situation with the illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous products in the regions with the local authorities and civil society organizations.
The mission culminated in a press-conference held at UN House on 30 January 2007 and was attended, along with Mr. IBEANU, Mr Yuriy YUSHCHENKO Head of Department for Ecological Safety at the Ministty of Environmental Protection of Ukraine, and Human Rights Advisor of UN in Ukraine Mr. Alan SKURBATY, who shared with the journalists some preliminary information about the situation with the dumping of toxic wastes and their affect on human rights in Ukraine.
“Everyone agrees that Ukraine faces important environmental challenges resulting from the presence of significant quantities of toxic and dangerous products and wastes a consequence notably of the large Soviet era industrial sector as well as from huge stockpiles of obsolete pesticides. Imports of toxic wastes, the issue which I examined most closely, while posing significant challenges only add to the existing problems the country is facing in the area of protection of the environment,” Mr IBEANU stated.
The UN Special Rapporteur highlighted the need to provide full information about the existing toxic wastes and other dangerous products to the public. “I believe that access to information regarding environmental issues and their potential consequences for human rights requires some improvement. Furthermore, I believe that providing full information on these issues will contribute to further improving the existing trust and understanding between the Government and civil society on environmental issues,” he added.
In conclusion, Mr IBEANU said that despite funding and availability of adequate technologies to treat toxic products, “there was an urgent need to limit the quantity of toxic and dangerous products and wastes present on the territory of Ukraine, by implementing all the necessary measures to put an end to any further import”. The full statement by Mr.Ibeanu may be found here.
On the basis of the information gathered during meetings and on-site visits, the Special Rapporteur will develop recommendations and present report on the mission to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In 1995, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted its first resolution specifically concerning the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights (resolution 1995/81).
The Commission noted with grave concern that the increasing rate of illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes in developing countries continued adversely to affect the human rights to life and health, and decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a mandate (a) to investigate and examine the effect on the enjoyment of human rights; (b) to investigate, monitor, examine and receive communications and gather information on the subject; (c) to make recommendations and proposals on measures to control, reduce and eradicate illicit traffic and dumping; and (d) to compile a list of the countries and transnational corporations engaged in such practices, in addition to a list of victims.
Mr. Ibeanu was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004. He is a professor of political science at the University of Nigeria and has published widely on environment issues, including on the links between environment, security and human rights.
Special Rapporteurs are individuals working on behalf of the United Nations who bear a specific mandate to investigate, monitor and recommend solutions to human rights problems. Appointed by the UN Secretary General, these experts are "of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights." They act independently of governments. They do not receive any financial compensation for their work. Some of these experts are called Special Representatives or Independent Experts.
Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations. They can only visit countries that have agreed to invite them. Aside from fact-finding missions, Rapporteurs regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. Once a complaint is verified as legitimate, an urgent letter or appeal is sent to the government that has allegedly committed the violation.