knoxjhJohn Knox, Wake Forest professor of International Law, advances the ideals of Pro Humanitate on a global scale.  An internationally recognized expert on human rights and environmental law, he is currently serving as the first United Nations Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Knox’s three-year appointment as a UN independent expert began in July 2012.  Appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Knox lays out the following road map for fulfilling his mandate:

  1. Create a detailed map of human rights obligations as they relate to the environment. To gather information for this report, Knox has held expert consultations in countries around the globe.  This mapping process will allow Knox to find areas where the laws of separate nations have coalesced and areas which need more attention from the international community.  Knox will present the mapping report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.
  2. Collect leading examples of the development of environmental policy based on human rights concerns. In addition to serving as an opportunity to gather evidence for the mapping report, these consultations allow Knox to collect best practices for integrating human rights and support for environmental policymaking from experts who represent numerous governments and civil societies.
  3. Recommend next steps. After clarifying the current state of human rights obligations as they relate to the environment and collecting best practices from around the world, Knox will make recommendations that pertain to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which include the goal of ensuring environmental sustainability.  He will also use his findings to support follow-up processes to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

In 2013, Knox’s duties as Independent Expert brought him to Nairobi, Geneva, and Panama for expert consultations.  He also paid a research visit to Costa Rica, attended a gathering of special mandate-holders in Vienna, spoke at the International Bar Association in Boston, and participated in an Asia-Europe Meeting Seminar on human rights and the environment in Copenhagen.

Knox’s work has provided a springboard for a 2015 Wake Forest conference on human rights and the environment. The WFU Humanities Institute and its affiliates, Human Rights and Global Justice and the Humanities for the Environment Community Mapping Project, along with members of CEES and the Law School faculty are planning a conference and symposia series for spring 2015.

To follow Knox on his global mission to bring clarity and direction to the relationship between human rights, the law, and the environment, visit his website: