This month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, will travel to Mongolia on an official country visit. By creating the mandate in 2012, the Human Rights Council acknowledged the increasing recognition of governments and civil society that a safe and sustainable environment is needed to fully enjoy many human rights, such as the rights to food and water. For Mongolia, a healthy environment is particularly important for the one-fifth of its population who are nomadic pastoralists, as their livelihoods are intricately tied to the environment. This post will discuss how rural-urban migration of Mongolian herders highlights the connection between environmental concerns and human rights.
Facing threats of climate change, poor rangeland management, and pollution, Mongolia is falling behind on many of its environment-related human rights obligations. For my dissertation for the MA Human Rights & Cultural Diversity at the University of Essex last year and as a National Geographic Young Explorer, I interviewed herders about environmental change, natural disasters, and migration, focusing on learning what a local human rights-based approach to climate change displacement could look like. One former herder’s story highlighted the human rights and environment issues that Mr. Knox will need to address in his upcoming country visit.