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UN Official Says Environment and Human Rights Connected - 2002-01-17

The U.N.'s human rights and environment agencies Wednesday concluded a three-day meeting to assess what has been achieved since the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago.

Addressing the meeting in its final day, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said now is an ideal time to examine what she says is the connection between the environment and human rights.

"Poverty is at the center of a broad range of human rights violations and is at the same time a major obstacle to achieving a sustainable development and environmental protection," she said. "A rights-based approach can enhance the impact of policies and programs on the national and international levels on this matter."

The head of the U.N. Environment Program, Klaus Topfer, drew attention to the export of outdated pesticides and other pollutants to the developing world. He said the practice destroyed not only the global ecology but the economy of people in these areas. "The export of hazardous waste from developed countries to developing countries is really against the life conditions of the people living there. You can see the same with regard to climate change, the ozone layer and all the other conventions.

Mr. Topfer says the U.N. environment agency will also be aiding efforts to help clear Afghanistan from the effects of more than 22 years of war.

The two U.N. agencies also discussed prospects for the next earth summit, to be held in Johannesburg in August.