23 March 2021
Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,
Bula Vinaka and Good Day. By way of introduction, my name is Nazhat Shameem Khan. I am the Ambassador of the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations in Geneva, and this year I have the honour of serving as the President of the Human Rights Council.
It is my great pleasure to speak to you all today.
At the outset, I would like to thank the United Nations Development Programme Asia-Pacific Regional Climate Promise team and Gender team for organising this event on advancing inclusion, diversity and gender equality in the context of climate change action. This is an important subject, and one that requires coherent collaboration at the international level to address it effectively.
It is for this reason that I am particularly pleased that I, in my capacity as President of the Human Rights Council, have the opportunity to speak at this event. I sincerely hope that our important conversations encourage further collaboration among international organizations and intergovernmental bodies with regards to the need for inclusivity, diversity and gender equality in climate change action.
As the world begins its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic we must seize this opportunity to build forward differently and better. However, in order to build back better, we must reflect on all of the lessons learned over the past year, especially in regards to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on human rights in parallel with the ongoing impacts of the climate crisis.
This is where the Human Rights Council has played and continues to play such an important role. Despite the outbreak of the pandemic and the myriad of lockdowns and other restrictions put into place last year, the Council remained active and committed to the fulfilment of its mandate to promote and protect human rights around the world. It got creative and found innovative ways to continue its work, including through the use of modern technology, and was able to hold its three annual regular sessions, including two urgent debates, and two sessions of the Universal Periodic Review. The Council’s special procedure mandate holders also remained very active, publishing numerous reports, recommendations and guidelines on the effects of the pandemic on human rights.. The work of the Council and its mechanisms are an important resource to draw upon when assessing and analysing the impact the pandemic has had on human rights.
During the first lockdown last spring, the Council adopted by consensus a President’s Statement that recognised the wide-range of human rights implications of the pandemic, including by emphasizing the importance of timely, equitable and unhindered access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, including for persons affected by natural disasters or climate change.
Through this President’s Statement, the Council mandated the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world, including good practices and areas of concern. This report was presented to the Human Rights Council just a few weeks ago, on 25 February. I was very happy to see that the report included a number of insightful recommendations for climate action, including to ensure that any new investments to relaunch economies are “in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” and to ensure that “all COVID-19 recovery policies should accelerate the transition to zero-emission economies in a manner that contributes to the realization of all human rights”.
It is this sort of work we need right now to guarantee that, as the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, we revitalize our societies in a human rights-based, inclusive and climate-conscious manner.
Fortunately for us all, the Human Rights Council has been addressing the intersection between human rights and climate change for some time. In fact, since 2014, the Council has adopted annual resolutions specifically on human rights and climate change, each with a thematic human rights focus. These range from the adverse impacts of climate change on the right to development, to the importance of integrating a gender-responsive approach into climate policies to the urgency of promoting and protecting human rights of migrants in the context of climate change. A common and reoccurring principle for all climate action is to ensure necessary and proper consideration of diversity, inclusivity and gender.
Each of these resolutions have mandated important activities and reports that analyse the relationship between human rights and climate change. These reports also shed light on how the human rights of vulnerable groups are disproportionately impacted by climate change and, by doing so, highlight the importance of inclusion, diversity and gender-equality in all climate change actions and policies.
Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,
If I may, I will conclude on a personal note. As I stated earlier, I am Fijian. I know first-hand the devastating impact climate change is having on all human rights, be it civil, political, economic, social or cultural rights. Tragically, last year, this fact was underlined as Fiji suffered from two serious Tropical Cyclones.
What the Tropical Cyclones also underlined is the fact that to effectively prepare for and recover from the negative human rights impacts of climate change, we must ensure that inclusivity, diversity and gender-equality are properly considered when taking any climate action. Only then will we be able to formulate and implement effective and ambitious climate action that is anchored in the experience of those most vulnerable and is truly responsive to all people.
With this in mind, Excellencies and Dear Colleagues, I thank you all for contributing to what I know will be a fruitful and very important discussion.
Vinaka, I thank you.
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