John Knox

Former UN Special Rapporteur Environment and Human Rights Prof John Knox

John Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law.  In July 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed him to a three-year mandate as its first Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and in March 2015, his mandate was extended for three years and his title changed to Special Rapporteur.

In addition to his work on human rights and environmental protection, his recent scholarship addresses the human rights obligations of corporations, citizen suits in international environmental law, and the extraterritorial application of U.S. law, among other topics.  In 2003, he was awarded the Francis Deák Prize, established by the American Society of International Law to honor a younger author who has made a “meritorious contribution to international legal scholarship.” 

For four years, until 2005, he chaired a national advisory committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the first regional environmental organization in North America.  From 2008 to 2012, he provided pro bono assistance to the Government of the Maldives and the Center for International Environmental Law in their efforts to bring human rights law to bear on climate change and other environmental problems.

After graduating with honors from Stanford Law School in 1987, Professor Knox served as an attorney-adviser at the U.S. Department of State from 1988 to 1994, where he helped to negotiate the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the first protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.  He spent four years in private practice in Austin, Texas, and taught at Penn State for eight years before joining Wake Forest in 2006.  He is married to Julie Winterich, a professor at Guilford College, and they have three daughters, who are 13, 17, and 19 years old.


Selected Presentations by Professor Knox:

Presentation of Biodiversity and Human Rights; and Country Visit to Madagascar to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council Session - Geneva, 8 March 2017

Presentation of Climate Change and Human Rights; and Implementation of the Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Environment to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council Session - Geneva, 3 March 2016

Presentation of Good Practices Report to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council Session - Geneva, 9 March 2015

Human Rights Obligations to Protect the Environment

UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy - 5 September 2014

Human Rights and the Environment: The Relationship Becomes Clearer

Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School - 10 July 2014

Human Rights Obligations to Protect the Environment

SIDA Workshop on Human Rights and the Environment- Bangkok, 20 May 2014

Environmental Human Rights Defenders: The Front Line of Environmental Protection

Chico Vive Conference- American University, Washington, D.C., 5 April 2014

Transnational Corporations and Environmental Harm

Side-Event on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations - Geneva, 11 March 2014   Presentation of Mapping Report to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council Session - Geneva, 11 March 2014

Click here for a video of the Independent Expert's report to the Council.  

The Human Rights Basis for the Environmental Pillar

Side-Event at the 6th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development- December 12, 2013

Access Rights as Human Rights

Meeting of Negotiators of Regional Agreement on Access Rights - Lima, 31 October 2013

Human Rights and the Environment: Carrying the Conversation Forward

Asia-Europe Seminar on Human Rights and the Environment - Copenhagen, 21 October 2013

Presentation of Scoping Report to Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council Session - Geneva, 6 March 2013

Click here for a video of the interactive dialogue at the Session.  

The Role of Human Rights in the Follow-up to Rio+20

UNEP Ministerial Plenary - Nairobi, 18 February 2013