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Pillay urges states to inject human rights into Rio+20

GENEVA (18 April 2012) – As negotiations on the Rio+20 Conference outcome enter a critical phase, UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has urged all United Nations Member States to ensure that human rights are thoroughly integrated in the discussions and in any final outcome.

Twenty years after the adoption of the landmark Rio Declaration, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is due to convene in June this year. Regrettably, said Pillay in a letter sent to all UN Member States, the draft outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference fails to take sufficient account of human rights imperatives.

“In recent years, people have taken to the streets in every region of the world, passionately demanding their fundamental human rights – in many instances at great personal risk,” Pillay said. “For Rio+20 to be successful, its outcome must ensure that explicit human rights safeguards are in place.”

Pillay warned that incoherence between international human rights standards, environmental strategies and economic policies can undercut all three.

“Strategies based on the narrow pursuit of economic growth without due regard for equity and related environmental, social and human rights considerations, will both fail in their economic objectives, and risk damaging the planet and the fundamental rights of people,” she said.

The High Commissioner noted that there were numerous examples of projects aimed at sustainable development seriously impinging on the rights of already vulnerable communities, leading to landlessness, homelessness and economic dispossession.

“Technocratic processes have excluded women from decision-making, economic and social inequalities have been exacerbated, indigenous peoples have seen threats to their lands and livelihood from some emission reduction schemes, scarce food-growing lands have sometimes been diverted for the production of biofuels, and massive infrastructure projects have resulted in the forced eviction and relocations of entire communities,” she said.

“Simply put, participatory, accountable, non-discriminatory and empowering development is more effective, more just and ultimately more sustainable.”

Pillay said that the 1992 Rio Declaration has been celebrated for its integrated approach to economic development, social development and environmental protection – and because it was “thoroughly infused with human rights considerations essential to sustainable development.”

She called on all Member States to commit to ensuring full coherence between their international human rights obligations and efforts to advance the green economy.

“All policies and measures aimed at advancing sustainable development must be firmly grounded in the right to development, based on the principles of participation, accountability at the national and international level, non-discrimination, empowerment and the rule of law,” Pillay said.

“Public and private sector actors must exercise due diligence, including by conducting human rights impact assessments. They must take particular care to prevent and remedy any negative impact on the human rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups, including indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, people living in poverty, older people, individuals with disabilities, and children. Empowerment of women, the protection of their rights, and their meaningful participation in decision-making must be assured.”

Pillay added that States must ensure that explicit attention is paid to protecting the human rights to food, to water and sanitation, to health, housing and education, and to participation in public affairs.

“A strong outcome at Rio, seamlessly integrating the environmental, social, economic, and human rights elements of sustainable development, will do much to help us advance our collective mission to create a world free from fear and from want,” the UN rights chief added.

“I look forward to being a part of this important process.”

ENDS

For the full text of Navi Pillay’s letter to Member States, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/HRAndClimateChange/Pages/HRClimateChangeIndex.aspx

For media enquiries, please contact UN Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville (+ 41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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