返回


Human Rights Council Holds Panel Discussion on the Effects of Climate Change on Older People

返回

2021年6月30日

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

30 June 2021
Morning

The Human Rights Council this morning held a panel discussion on the human rights of older persons in the context of climate change.  It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. 

In her opening remarks, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that population ageing and climate change had significant implications for human rights.  By the year 2050, it was estimated that humanity would include 1.5 billion people aged 65 and above.  And by 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions had not been reduced to net zero, global warming would exceed 1.5° Celsius.  Ageism contributed to older persons’ vulnerability to climate change.  The COVID-19 crisis had demonstrated how age-related discrimination created and exacerbated the poverty and marginalisation of older people, amplifying human rights risks. 

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said it was incumbent on governments, local governments, and national disaster management agencies to ensure that national strategies for disaster risk reduction and others in development made adequate provision for the inclusion of older persons.  Apart from ensuring their protection and safety, there was also a need to recognise the role they could play in building a community’s resilience to disasters.  The pandemic must serve as a wake-up call on human rights issues that were likely to become increasingly common as the climate emergency worsened.

Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, said climate change,  which was man-made, posed specific challenges for the heterogeneous group of older persons.  Because of the interaction of ageism, age discrimination and climate change, they could be particularly disadvantaged and discriminated against.  Age was still missing as a specific ground of discrimination in the current international human rights system. 

Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said he was speaking from one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, Bangladesh, with 170 million people living in less than 150 thousand square kilometers.  Some of the most vulnerable people were obviously the poorest people living in the most hazardous and vulnerable locations.  But within them, some were more affected: women more than men, children more than adults, elderly more than able-bodied adults and so on – so forth.

Katharina Rall, Senior Environment Researcher, Human Rights Watch, said those already marginalised were often most impacted by climate change.  Last year, Human Rights Watch had documented how indigenous peoples in Canada, including many older people, were struggling to access food as a result of rising temperatures.  Governments were still not doing enough to mitigate climate change and to help those most impacted populations adapt to it.  There was robust data on the number of older people among those who had died from heatwaves.  However, health impacts of heat on older people were much less documented or monitored. 

Handaine Mohamed, Expert on issues of climate change and indigenous peoples in Africa, said the evolution of climate change and of the elderly followed the same rules.  Global warming, natural disasters, and increasing ocean waters kept increasing, and in front of them the rate of the elderly kept increasing.  This symmetry between climate change and the elderly posed a huge responsibility to the international community, especially the Human Rights Council, a responsibility to ensure that the effects of climate change do not infect the rights of this category of the world population. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed that climate change was one of the most fundamental threats to the environment, and thus to human rights.  Older people were often affected disproportionately and had fewer capacities to respond to climate change.  Speakers emphasised that nowhere on Earth could they find better witnesses to the effects of climate change than older persons, particularly older indigenous persons, expressing concern over age bias, ageism and the backsliding on indigenous rights.  Over 400 civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations had previously called for the creation of a position of Special Rapporteur on climate change.

Speaking were Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany,  European Union on behalf of a group of countries, Viet Nam on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Viet Nam on behalf of a group of countries, Cameroon on behalf of the Group of African States, European Union, Bahamas on behalf of a group of countries, Ecuador on behalf of a group of countries, Slovenia on behalf of a group of countries, Qatar, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Mozambique, Marshall Islands, United States, United Nations Environment Programme, Slovenia, and Fiji.

The following national human rights institutions and civil society organizations also took the floor: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, and Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

The Council then concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Speakers underscored that victims of trafficking were in a very difficult situation, highlighting that the principles of non-punishment must apply to them.  Effective implementation was critical in this regard.  States should ratify and implement the 2014 International Labour Organization Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, which required Governments to take measures to tackle all forms of forced labour and provide protection to victims.  Speakers warned against criminalisation of victims of trafficking: it limited trafficking victims’ access to justice and protection, decreasing the likelihood they would turn to the authorities for help.

Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in her concluding remarks, said that she was open to working closely both with States and civil society, assisting in legislative processes and commenting on upcoming legislation. 

Speaking were Georgia, Mali, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Croatia, UN Women, Russian Federation, Philippines, Viet Nam, Hungary, Serbia, Djibouti, Uganda, Belgium, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova, Albania, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bahamas, Cyprus, Cameroon, Mauritania, Ukraine, South Sudan, Cambodia, Chad, and Iran. 

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, European Centre for Law and Justice, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Franciscans International, Edmund Rice International Limited, VIVAT International, Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Jubilee Campaign, and Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-seventh regular session can be found here

The Council will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Panel Discussion on the Human Rights of Older Persons in the Context of Climate Change

Keynote Statements

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that population ageing and climate change had significant implications for human rights.  By the year 2050, it was estimated that humanity would include 1.5 billion people aged 65 and above.  And by 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions had not been reduced to net zero, global warming would exceed 1.5° Celsius.  Ageism contributed to older persons’ vulnerability to climate change.  The COVID-19 crisis had demonstrated how age-related discrimination created and exacerbated the poverty and marginalisation of older people, amplifying human rights risks.  The study submitted by the Office of the High Commissioner pursuant to resolution 44/7 found that older people faced disproportionate impacts from climate change on the effective enjoyment of their rights.  The existing international human rights framework provided fragmented and inconsistent coverage of the human rights of older persons, in law and practice. 

There was no dedicated normative instrument on the rights of older persons, and the limitations of existing instruments could hinder their effective protection, including in the context of climate change.  However, many older persons occupied positions of authority and had benefited from the economic development pathways that caused climate change.  States had legal obligations, including under international human rights law, to implement climate policies that would stop future warming.  The study undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner presented promising practices related to inclusive climate action that were being implemented by governments.  The High Commissioner said she was committed to supporting governments in taking urgent and ambitious climate action to protect all people everywhere from the worst impacts of climate change by putting human rights at the centre of climate action.

MAMI MIZUTORI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said although there was still a long way to go in improving the collection of disaggregated data by age, sex and disability, there was plenty of evidence to support the view that older persons were disproportionately affected by disasters.  The pandemic was a case in point, given the high loss of life in care homes for older persons even in the most advanced economies.  Furthermore, even those who had not been affected physically endured long periods of solitude with impact on their mental health.  Older persons had years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which were invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk.  They must be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.

To date, just over 100 United Nations Member States had adopted national strategies for disaster risk reduction in line with a key global target of the Sendai Framework.  It was incumbent on governments, local governments, and national disaster management agencies to ensure that these existing strategies and others in development made adequate provision for the inclusion of older persons.  Apart from ensuring their protection and safety, there was also a need to recognise the role they could play in building a community’s resilience to disasters.  This was obvious when one considered the active role that many older persons played in raising and minding their grandchildren, and their high levels of participation in voluntary organizations.  In general, the pandemic must serve as a wake-up call on human rights issues that were likely to become increasingly common as the climate emergency worsened.

Statements by Panellists

CLAUDIA MAHLER, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, said climate change, which was man-made, posed specific challenges for the heterogeneous group of older persons.  Because of the interaction of ageism, age discrimination and climate change, they could be particularly disadvantaged and discriminated against.  Age was still missing as a specific ground of discrimination in the current international human rights system.  This was already one aspect which explained the invisibility and insufficient protection of older persons on the international as well as national levels.  Intersectional factors needed to be taken into account as they often significantly shaped the way older persons experienced the impacts of climate.  In particular, she highlighted that older women, older persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous people faced specific challenges in realising their rights in relation to the impacts of climate change.  Persistent ageism, age discrimination, and the lack of an international convention on the rights of older persons made it more difficult for older persons to claim their rights and fundamental freedoms in many contexts, including in relation to climate change.

SALEEMUL HUQ, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said he was speaking from one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, Bangladesh, with 170 million people living in less than 150,000 square kilometres.  It was located in the delta of two of the biggest rivers in the world, the Ganges – Brahmaputra, and was subject to regular flooding and regular cyclones from the Bay of Bengal that affected millions of people every few years.  Some of the most vulnerable people were obviously the poorest people living in the most hazardous and vulnerable locations.  But within them, some were more affected: women more than men, children more than adults, elderly more than able-bodied adults and so on – so forth.  The Government had set up the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan and was now looking forward to developing a new Mujib Climate Resilient Prosperity Plan to build the resilience of the vulnerable population with a focus on the most vulnerable, which would include the elderly.

KATHARINA RALL, Senior Environment Researcher, Human Rights Watch, said those already marginalised were often most impacted by climate change.  Last year, Human Rights Watch had documented how indigenous peoples in Canada, including many older people, were struggling to access food as a result of rising temperatures.  Governments were still not doing enough to mitigate climate change and to help those most impacted populations adapt to it.  There was robust data on the number of older people among those who had died from heatwaves.  However, health impacts of heat on older people were much less documented or monitored.  While many countries had good data on heat mortalities, they were not documenting other health impacts disaggregated by age.  The gap of health monitoring and related barriers was especially concerning for older people with disabilities.  Government responses to heatwaves did not always account for the needs of older people, she added.  It was now time for an on-going and more systematic engagement on climate change at the Human Rights Council, by creating a dedicated special procedure mandate on human rights and climate change.

HANDAINE MOHAMED, Expert on issues of climate change and indigenous peoples in Africa, said the evolution of climate change and of the elderly followed the same rules.  Global warming, natural disasters, and increasing ocean waters kept increasing, and in front of them the rate of the elderly kept increasing.  This symmetry between climate change and the elderly posed a huge responsibility to the international community, especially the Human Rights Council, a responsibility to ensure that the effects of climate change do not infect the rights of this category of the world population.  Climate change directly affected the rights of older people on several levels.  On the right to information, he noted the elderly no longer had the ability to quickly assimilate all the information on climate change.  In terms of the right to a healthy and clean environment, those who had spent their lives building society had the right to live in contexts that were suitable for them considering their vulnerable situation.  The rights to access to clean water and clean food, and to live a calm and peaceful life were also important in that regard.  The situation in Africa was much more worrying for older people.  Given the lack of infrastructure, the lack of good governance, the lack of ultra-modern logistical capacities, the elderly would be among the first victims of climate change, as was the case in the Sahel and the Sahara regions.

Discussion

Speakers agreed that climate change was one of the most fundamental threats to the environment, and thus to human rights.  Older people were often affected disproportionately and had fewer capacities to respond to climate change.  Strengthening and promoting the effective participation of human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and minorities to become powerful actors of change was essential.  Low- and middle-income countries were more exposed, creating a double vulnerability for their older persons.  As a result, international solidarity was at the heart of the fight against climate change.  What specific actions could be taken by States to integrate the needs of older persons in their climate action measures?  Speakers emphasised that nowhere on Earth could they find better witnesses to the effects of climate change than older persons, particularly older indigenous persons, expressing concern over age bias, ageism and the backsliding on indigenous rights.  Speakers agreed with the recommendation of the High Commissioner’s report to adopt an international instrument providing a universal minimum standard to protect the rights of older persons, including in the context of climate change. 

Some speakers highlighted the work carried out by the United Nations Development Programme to bolster national capacity in countries.  They asked the panellists to comment on the proposal to establish a Special Procedure mandate holder on climate change.  The interplay of various factors caused older persons to be disproportionately affected by climate change; yet, this was rarely considered in emergency and mitigation plans.  The rights of older persons must be addressed with a 360 degrees approach; there was an urgent need for intergenerational solidarity in the absence of a binding convention on the rights of older persons.  Speakers pointed out that over 400 civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations had previously called for the creation of a position of Special Rapporteur on climate change.

Concluding Remarks

CLAUDIA MAHLER, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, noted that she was speaking from Munich instead of Berlin, as originally planned, because of extreme weather events: this was a timely discussion.  A good example for States to follow was to make older persons visible in their assessments, taking particular note of older persons’ human rights when designing climate change measures.  Including older persons better in strategies and drawing on their experience would be valuable for all generations. 

SALEEMUL HUQ, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, pointing out that climate change affected development, urged adequate mitigation measures.  Human rights were also at play in that regard, as several speakers had underscored.  In Bangladesh, several million people, including older persons, were vulnerable in the face of climate change.  They had not been sitting idle and had developed plans to address the effects of climate change.  Mr. Huq said he would be happy to share additional information on these plans with those who were interested.

KATHARINA RALL, Senior Environment Researcher, Human Rights Watch, welcomed the discussion on specific impacts of climate change on marginalised groups, including the focus on older persons.  Better policies addressing the intersection of climate change and older people's rights were needed.  Internationally there was a need for more coordination between the human rights world and climate change fora.  She also highlighted monitoring the concrete and distinct impacts of climate change on the daily lives of marginalised people as a good practice.

HANDAINE MOHAMED, Expert on issues of climate change and indigenous peoples in Africa, recalled that older people had built civilisations around the world.  There was a need to reinforce the legal frameworks to protect their rights, both at the national and international levels.  It was important to protect indigenous peoples in that context, lest the world lose traditional knowledge that could be key to combat climate change.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, started on 29 June and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers underscored that victims of trafficking were in a very difficult situation, highlighting that the principles of non-punishment must apply to them.  Effective implementation was critical in this regard.  States should ratify and implement the 2014 International Labour Organization Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, which required Governments to take measures to tackle all forms of forced labour and provide protection to victims.  Speakers warned against criminalisation of victims of trafficking: it limited trafficking victims’ access to justice and protection, decreasing the likelihood that they would turn to the authorities for help.  Some speakers rejected the concept of "modern slavery", which they said was a tool for collecting information for unjustified criticism of sovereign States and intrusive monitoring of their human rights situations.  Speakers described measures in place in their countries to increase the provision of shelter services and provide assistance to migrants at sea.  The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on trafficking in persons had recently become a widely discussed issue: how had the Special Rapporteur contributed to these discussions?

Speakers emphasised the importance of traumatological psychology, and pointed out that traffickers often targeted the most vulnerable.  The non-punishment principle should be applied with regard to financial, criminal and administrative measures.  Poverty and employment were amongst the underlying factors of trafficking, speakers said.  It was notably important to uphold the non-punishment principle where minors were concerned, while ensuring they benefited from protection and the social services they needed.  The criminal records of victims of trafficking must be expunged of all accusations and convictions that were related to their being victims of trafficking.  Urging the decriminalisation of migration, speakers drew attention to trafficking related to labour, and expressed alarm at the effects of COVID-19, which had caused the situation to worsen.

Concluding Remarks

SIOBHÁN MULLALLY, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said that she was open to working closely both with States and civil society, assisting in legislative processes and commenting on upcoming legislation.  To improve the implementation of the non-punishment principle on the ground, the report made numerous recommendations - ensuring the provision of legal aid and expungement of sentences was crucial.

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/fr/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/06/human-rights-council-holds-panel-discussion-effects-climate

 

___________

 

For use of the information media; not an official record


返回

返回

No