On 9 March 2023, the Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina addressed through video link the UN Human Rights Council (Council) in Geneva for the first time about the problem of environmental protection. Prior to the video address the Ombudsman forwarded the Council participants his written statement. At the 52nd regular session, the Council discussed the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment David R. Boyd about his visit to Slovenia, in October 2022. He was on that occasion also welcomed by Ombudsman Svetina who informed him of the findings of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia Institution (Ombudsman) in the field of environmental protection. He regretted that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (MOP) has been among the ministries with the highest number of violations for years.
In his video address to the participants of the 52nd regular session of the Council, Ombudsman Svetina emphasised that the field of human rights and the environment is extremely important for future generations, and not only for ours. His appearance at the session is additional confirmation of the support of the institution of the Slovenian Ombudsman for the report of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment and along with many others an additional warning to the responsible bodies about the urgent need to take action. “I call on the Government and other competent bodies to realise the given recommendations as soon as possible and present a concrete timeline for it,” said Ombudsman Svetina. He also brought attention to current challenges the Ombudsman has been warning about for years, but mostly without any real effect. In his written statement, Ombudsman Svetina presented the most current matters or recommendations being discussed in relation to the environment. “We all need to understand that the implementation of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and the Ombudsman in this field is urgent, even though its effects are often not seen immediately or require certain changes which are unpopular at first,” added Svetina.
He said that the Ombudsman completely agrees with the finding of the Special Rapporteur that the implementation of laws and policies is an area in which Slovenia faces great challenges. “One of the Ombudsman’s main criticisms is that the actions of drafters of regulations in the field of the environment and spatial planning are all too often discordant with the right of the public to participate in the adoption of regulations. For years, we have been calling on the bodies responsible to adopt regulations that will give meaning to the new constitutional right – the right to drinking water, adopted in 2016. We also call upon Slovenia to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. For approximately ten years, the Ombudsman has been recommending that the Government adopt urgent measures for the provision of access to drinking water and toilets, electricity connections, and regulation of all Roma settlements. An equally important question concerns the lack of activity in the field of rehabilitation of several degraded areas in Slovenia. The goal should be to leave nobody behind, which is also emphasised by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The state must deal with the climate crisis as a priority task on all levels with all seriousness,” emphasised the Human Rights Ombudsman.
The Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman is empowered to actively participate at the Council’s session by the accreditation of the national institution for human rights with status A according to the Paris Principles acquired in January 2021. Within the United Nations, the Ombudsman had participated with alternative reports and appearances within international contracting councils of the United Nations for human rights and Cycle 3 of the Universal Periodic Inspection.
Ombudsman’s written statement (in English)
Video statement of Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina (in English)
Press release of the Ombudsman after the meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur upon his visit to Slovenia, October 2022 (in Slovenian)