24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Closing Remarks by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
Katowice, 12 December 2018
This has been a remarkable opportunity to develop greater understanding of exactly what a just transition can – and should – look like. I think all of us are grateful for the knowledge and breadth of perspectives of today’s panellists, and the valuable information they have offered for people across the world.
There’s a saying, “the blessing lies next to the wound”. Hector Aristizabal, a Colombian torture survivor and activist, uses it to represent the resilience of human beings, and our capacity to transform harm into wisdom, so that its lessons can help us to recover and even improve.
For me, a just transition is like that.
At the opening plenary ten days ago, this COP 24 adopted a strong declaration on just transition, the Silesia Declaration, which recognises the value of social dialogue, and commits to protecting human and labour rights in the transition to a green economy.
We need all actors to apply it – because these commitments are important principles in and of themselves, and should guide all policy, in all circumstances.
We need strong action for a just transition because if the process of transition is not just, its outcomes will not be just, either.
We need a just transition because climate change – and climate policies – raise acute new challenges for social justice, human rights, jobs and livelihoods, which demand focused social policies, and measures to protect workers’ rights. From fishing industries affected by the acidification of oceans to coal miners and workers in fossil fuel industries, workers, their families and their communities are going to be deeply affected, States cannot ignore these human rights impacts.
And we need a strong, just transition because this disaster of climate change can also be an opportunity. An opportunity to set our world on a better course.
A just transition can help societies create quality jobs, which address the human rights challenges faced by indigenous peoples, people living in vulnerable areas, discriminated and marginalised groups, women, migrant workers, persons with disabilities, older persons and youth. Often these are people, who can only access hazardous jobs, underpaid and underprotected.
We can do better.
The Silesia Declaration is a determined step in the right direction, which calls for dialogue that involves all social partners, and emphasizes the need for climate action that leaves no one behind, creates new opportunities for decent work and helps eradicate poverty.
Decent work requires respect for the human right to work, and respect for human rights at work.
We should be taking steps to translate the commitments in the Silesia Declaration into concrete action – now.
Seventy years ago, the world’s States “reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
They “pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
We need a renewal of that courageous and principled commitment today. We need determined policy decisions, which turn away from climate disaster and lead us towards better standards of life.
My Office is ready to help transform the principles of the Silesia Declaration into strong human rights language, and concrete and inclusive policies, so that States, UN partners and all actors can take principled action to uphold human rights and ensure that no one is left behind.