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Wednesday, March 17 • 18:30 - 20:00
Human Rights Impacts of Plastic in the South Asian subregion

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Side event externally organized by Center for International Environmental Law and Break Free From Plastics

Brief description of the session:
There are documented impacts on human rights at every stage of the plastic life cycle. Such impacts can be disproportionate to the livelihoods of individuals, who are dependent on the lands and oceans ecosystem of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Laccadive Sea. Further, a study from 2020 also found microplastic pollution in snow close to the peak of Mount Everest, with implications for the people living below it. During this official session, panelists from diverse backgrounds and sectors will come together to present their work and reflect how the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can contribute to tackle plastic pollution in South Asia.
Key objectives of the session:
Show intersections between human rights and pollution from plastics in the South Asian subregion.
Discuss how a rights-based approach applied to the whole life cycle of plastic is necessary to prevent and redress the human rights impacts of plastic.
Discuss the duties and responsibilities of actors such as governments and the private sector, and in reference to protection, discuss how to respect and redress to communities in the South Asian subregion affected by plastic pollution.
Highlight how Indigenous Peoples and local communities from the South Asian subregion are using traditional knowledge to reduce the need for plastic and mitigate harm from plastic pollution.
Key questions:
How are human rights being used and integrated in advocacy and actions to reduce plastic pollution?
How can the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) be used to accelerate efforts to reduce plastic pollution in the South Asian subregion?
What is the role of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ traditional knowledge in reducing plastic pollution?
Many advocate that urgent transformation of current economic operating systems, such as a rapid shift to a circular, doughnut or ecological economy, is necessary to fully address plastic pollution and other converging crises of our post-industrial age. In what ways is a human rights-based approach necessary to ensure a just transition to a new economy?
Many innovations and technological ‘solutions’ to the plastic pollution problem come with unintended consequences or problematic effects (for example, ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ plastics often require industrial processing infrastructure, or rely on monocropping of plant materials which may compete with food crops). Coming from a human rights context, what must policy and decision-makers be mindful of when building solutions to the plastic pollution problem, so that we mitigate the risk of creating new problems?
Background of the discussion: 
Plastic pollution is one of the greatest environmental concerns of our time. Some of the human rights affected by plastic pollution include the right to a healthy environment, the right to life, health and adequate standard of living, access to adequate food and to safe drinking water.
Plastics can contain toxic additives (such as flame retardants, phthalates, BPA and other bisphenols) that can continually expose people and ecosystems to harmful chemicals and pose a risk to health and the environment.[1]
This year we will be commemorating a decade since the endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The decade should look at pressure issues such as plastics.
The business and human rights framework also offers an opportunity for businesses to prevent human rights abuses and include in their due diligence process environmental assessments.
Also, businesses should respect international labour and occupational health standards for workers, not only within the supply chain, but those workers who are responsible for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer plastic products.
Background documents:

[1] Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC) - Regional Centre under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2020). Plastic’s Toxic Additives and the Circular Economy http://www.cprac.org/en/news-archive/general/toxic-additives-in-plastics-hidden-hazards-linked-to-common-plastic-products

avatar for Marcos Orellana

Marcos Orellana

Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, United Nations

avatar for Georgina Lloyd

Georgina Lloyd

Regional Coordinator (Asia and the Pacific) of Environmental Law and Governance, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Dr. Georgina Lloyd Rivera is the Regional Coordinator (Asia and the Pacific) of Environmental Law and Governance for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Georgina’s works cover the areas of environmental rights, environmental crime, technical assistance in environmental... Read More →
avatar for Vishvaja Sambath

Vishvaja Sambath

Environmental Health Researcher and Campaigner, Chennai Climate Action Group
Dr Vishvaja sambath is an Environmental Health Researcher and Campaigner working from multidisciplinary aspects of public health, climate change and air pollution since 2018. She graduated as a dental surgeon and her interest in this field grew during her dentistry internship when... Read More →

Hemantha Withanage

Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice- CEJ (Sri Lanka)

Wednesday March 17, 2021 18:30 - 20:00 IST
Room B