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Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development to the Human Rights Council: climate change is a global human rights threat multiplier

AFTERNOON

17 September 2021

Council Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the current State of play of the mainstreaming of the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations in the work of the Council

The Special Rapporteur on the right to development this afternoon presented to the Human Rights Council his report on the intersection of climate change and the right to development, saying that the global climate crisis, the increasing number of natural disasters and new global pandemics all had the potential to undo decades of development.  The Special Rapporteur warned that climate change was a global human rights threat multiplier. 

Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, said that climate change had already impacted and would increasingly impact a wide range of internationally guaranteed human rights, including the right to development.  Among the groups disproportionately affected by climate change were indigenous peoples, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities and women in vulnerable situations.  He noted that the communities and populations most affected by climate change were oftentimes the ones that did not participate in decision-making processes on actions that addressed the consequences of climate change. 

Mr.  Alfarargi called on countries to ensure the right to development by supporting development models that achieved a safe climate and met the Sustainable Development Goals, including the need to align both production and consumption patterns to sustainable and equitable levels.

In the discussion with the Special Rapporteur, some speakers expressed their strong commitment to international agreements on climate change, adding that their States had been implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for sustainable development.  The realisation of the right to development  as an inalienable human right was essential at this historic time, taking into account the growing gap between developing and developed countries, the effects of climate change, the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, the failure to comply with official development aid, as well as the heavy burden of foreign debt. 

Other speakers said that States had the primary responsibility for ensuring that their citizens benefited from development.  They considered the linking of the human rights agenda with the problems of climate change to be unfounded and largely artificial.  The recommendations on environmental rights fell within the sphere of international environmental law and should be further developed precisely within that sector, making use of the potential of the relevant experts. 

Speaking during the discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the right to development were: Egypt on behalf of the group of Arab States, European Union, Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Cameroon, Bahamas on behalf of a group of countries, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Ecuador, Armenia, Togo, Senegal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Venezuela, Angola, Bahrain, Cuba, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Morocco, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Nepal, Namibia, China, Mauritania, Iran and Oman. 

At the end of the meeting Japan, China and Republic of Korea spoke in right to reply. 

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the analytical report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the current state of play of the mainstreaming of the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations in the work of the Council. 

In the discussion, speakers said that women’s rights and gender equality were fundamental human rights.  They were convinced that the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls at all times, including in conflict and post-conflict situations, was essential to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and they remained committed to the work of the Council in this area.  Conflict and post-conflict situations exacerbated pre-existing gender-based discrimination and the inequality of women and girls, placing them at a heightened risk of various forms of gender-based violence.  Nine of the 10 countries with the highest rate of child marriage were conflict-affected, while one in six children globally lived within close proximity to conflicts where armed groups had perpetrated sexual violence against children during the last year. 

Speaking during this discussion were: Montenegro, Albania, Thailand, Venezuela, Angola, Netherlands, Kenya, United States, Russian Federation, Morocco, Ireland, Nepal, Namibia, China, Cyprus, Croatia, Bolivia, Libya, Malta, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, United Nations Population Fund, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Georgia, Afghanistan, UN Women, Philippines, Yemen, Niger, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Mali, Viet Nam, Botswana, Kazakhstan, Panama, Tunisia, Malawi, Saudi Arabia, Chile, New Zealand, Cuba, Iran and France.

Also speaking from the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Center for Reproductive Rights, Inc., International Lesbian and Gay Association, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, Plan International, Inc., Save the Children International, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Lutheran World Federation, Prahar, and Center for Organisation Research and Education.

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-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 September, to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.  It will then hear the presentation of the report by the Working Group on arbitrary detention addressing the deprivation of liberty of human rights defenders, followed by an interactive dialogue.  Time allowing, the Council will also hear the presentation of the report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons addressing ageism and age discrimination, followed by an interactive dialogue.

Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Current State of Play of the Mainstreaming of the Human Rights of Women and Girls in Conflict and Post-conflict Situations in the Work of the Council

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report on the current state of play of the mainstreaming of the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations in the work of the Council in the morning meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers said that women’s rights and gender equality were fundamental human rights.  The promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls at all times, including in conflict and post-conflict situations, was essential to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), and speakers said they remained committed to the work of the Council in this area.  The rationale of resolution 1325 was pushed from grassroots women up and was not only about making war safe for women, but was about ending war.  They advocated for a radical change of the foundations of the current economic system, entrenched in capitalism, patriarchy, racism and militarism.  Some speakers thanked the High Commissioner for a very comprehensive and succinct report which contained a hopeful analysis of the good work done thus far.  Conflict and post-conflict situations exacerbated pre-existing gender-based discrimination and the inequality of women and girls, placing them at a heightened risk of various forms of gender-based violence.  Factors conducive to this scenario must be eliminated, they further stated, while access to justice and remedies, as well as to health services alongside psychological and socioeconomic reintegration services, must be made available to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. 

Speakers said that the High Commissioner’s report highlighted the importance of addressing the structural causes of gender-based discrimination and inequality.  It raised the question of how to achieve greater synergies between the different mechanisms and processes that ensured respect for the rights of women and girls.  Some speakers commended the High Commissioner’s efforts in reaffirming the role of women and girls affected by conflict, as the world saw escalating conflict and forced displacement worldwide.  They were glad to observe progress on women and girls’ participation, indicating a shift in narrative from vulnerability to one of rights-holders.  They, however, noted with concern that there were limited improvements in ensuring that the experiences of women of different ages and diverse backgrounds were reflected at the Council.  This meant that the experiences of girls in all their diversity affected by conflict and humanitarian crises were under recognised and under addressed.  Nine out of the 10 countries with the highest rate of child marriage were conflict-affected, while one in six children globally lived within close proximity to conflicts where armed groups had perpetrated sexual violence against children during the last year.  Speakers called on the Human Rights Council and United Nations Member States to urgently address gaps in fulfilling the rights of girls in conflict settings. 

Concluding Remarks

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that last year was the twentieth anniversary of the women, peace and security resolution 1325 (2000).  Some progress had been achieved, while some challenges remained, as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s 2020 report.  In peace processes, women represented 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of peace agreement signatories.  The killings of women rights defenders, journalists and unionists had continued.  “We must do more and we must do better”, emphasised the High Commissioner as she called on stakeholders to increase their attention to fulfil the rights of women and girls.  To this aim, Ms.  Bachelet stated that properly documenting the violation of women’s and girls’ rights was critical, as well as translating gender sensitive findings and integrating the voices of women and girls. 

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Right to Development

Presentation of the Report

SAAD ALFARARGI, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, said his report examined the intersection of climate action and the right to development, primarily looking at national level efforts.  In his vision report in 2017, he had identified climate change as one of the adverse global trends that posed a challenge to the implementation of the right to development.  The global climate crisis, the increasing number of natural disasters, and new global pandemics all had the potential to undo decades of development.  Climate change was a global human rights threat multiplier.  It had already impacted and would increasingly impact a wide range of internationally guaranteed human rights, including the right to development.  Climate change impacts had already fallen on the most vulnerable parts of the global society — those who had not yet reaped the benefits of development and were not able to shield themselves or adequately recover from the fires and floods aggravated by climate change. 

Among the groups disproportionately affected by climate change, Mr.  Alfarargi indicated indigenous peoples, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities and women in vulnerable situations.  He noted that the communities and populations most affected by climate change were oftentimes the ones that did not participate in decision-making processes on actions that addressed the consequences of climate change.  Another challenge that the Special Rapporteur identified for persons claiming to have their rights violated by projects was the absence of adequate transparency and accountability mechanisms for potential violations.  In the face of the climate crisis, governments must design and implement ambitious and comprehensive policies and measures that paved the way for a real and transformative ecological transition.  The Special Rapporteur called on countries to ensure the right to development by supporting development models that achieved a safe climate and met the Sustainable Development Goals, including the need to align both production and consumption patterns to sustainable and equitable levels.

Discussion

Speakers expressed their strong commitment to international agreements on climate change and said their countries had been implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for sustainable development.  Some speakers supported the efforts of the Special Procedures of the Council to make human rights-based recommendations and assessments of States’ mitigation, adaptation and development policies that sought to address the adverse effects of climate change.  They reiterated their support for the right to development, based on the principles of universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, with the individual as the central actor and driving force of the development process.  Some speakers noted the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the risks they posed to the gains that had been made toward sustainable development and economic growth, as well as to the lives and livelihoods of their populations.  Speakers said that in his report, the Special Rapporteur had examined climate action from the perspective of the right to development, and recommended, among other things, the promotion of international cooperation for capacity-building activities in this area.  They further stated that the realisation of the right to development, as an inalienable human right, was essential at this historic time, taking into account the growing gap between developing and developed countries, the effects of climate change, the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, the failure to comply with official development aid, as well as the heavy burden of foreign debt.

Some speakers said that States had the primary responsibility for ensuring that their citizens benefited from development.  They considered the linking of the human rights agenda with the problems of climate change to be unfounded and largely artificial.  Activities in the area of climate change were primarily the responsibility of specialised bodies and structures, and the work on climate change must be carried out separately through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was the key international legal instrument on climate change, and the specialised human rights structures within the United Nations system.  The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on environmental rights fell within the sphere of international environmental law and should be further developed precisely within that sector, making use of the potential of the relevant experts.  Some speakers said they consistently opposed attempts to "dilute" the mandates of specialised structures, including the Framework Convention and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.  This was not conducive to reducing global warming and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  One speaker called on Mr.  Alfarragi to refrain from interfering in the work of the relevant United Nations structures, including his fellow Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Interim Remarks

SAAD ALFARARGI, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, started by making two general remarks.  Firstly, he reminded the Council that his report was divided in two parts, one, delivered today, on domestic aspects only.  He said that he would deliver the second at the General Assembly in New York, on the international aspects.  So, this was only half of the report.  Secondly, he explained that he was aware that this was a subject that interlinked with many other mandates’ subjects, including within the Council.  He further specified that he tried to not interfere with their work while treating this subject.  The biggest challenge to equality and climate action was the lack of methods to effectively collect data and conduct assessment on the environmental impact of projects and policies.  He called on States to only allow developmental projects if their environment impact had been assessed.  Climate change was inherently discriminatory, particularly for small island and developing States.  He appreciated the expression of support to his mandate and looked forward to further discussing his recommendations.

Discussion

Speakers recognised the close relationship between climate change and development and welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur with its focus on climate action at the national level and the right to development.  Climate change was without a doubt the greatest challenge the world was confronted with today.  Other speakers considered the right to development to be an essential building block for ensuring the rights of all human beings.  It was essential to ensure active and informed participation in the realisation of the right to development at the national level as per the Special Rapporteur’s previous recommendations.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/09/pour-le-rapporteur-special-sur-le-droit-au-developpement-le

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For use of the information media; not an official record