Calling for a rights-based response to environmental degradation in Madagascar


A young man carrying farm tools leaves his village to give a hand in a nearby hamlet. Beraketa, Katrafy South district, Madagascar, October 2019. Reuters/Marion Joly/Hans Lucas

Madagascar is one of the countries that contributes the least to climate crisis yet is the fourth most affected by it according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index. The country is also a biodiversity hotspot.

Since its inception in 2012, the Antananarivo-based Research and Support Centre for Development Alternatives - Indian Ocean (CRAAD-OI), has been working to promote sustainable development alternatives centred on promoting and protecting the human rights of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, rare earth mining and agro-industrial projects in Madagascar.

“Madagascar has a very valuable and sensitive ecosystem, but it is seriously compromised by climate change. With carbon dioxide emissions of almost 0.1 tonnes per capita, it is one of the countries that contributes the least to the climate crisis said Volahery Andriamanantenasoa, Programme Manager for CRAAD-OI, Now, more than 1,800 endemic species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 2020 Red List of Threatened Species, including 80 per cent of the country's endemic plant and animal species.”

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), in September 2021, UN Human Rights partnered with CRAAD-OI to organize the first Public Forum on Climate Justice and Human Rights in Madagascar. The forum was attended by over 100 representatives of local communities from across the country affected by climate change, as well as women and youth organizations and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

Andriamanantenasoa pointed out that most environmental civil society organizations in her country focused on individual responsibility however, a budding national youth movement has started shifting the discourse to climate justice. Madagascar has been hit by a series of natural disasters, drought and famine in the south that has forced populations to migrate to the north to find farmland for their survival.

“Unfortunately, the generalized degradation of the country's natural environment is coupled with Madagascar's development policies that tend to perpetuate the extractivist system inherited from colonial times and post-independence regimes,” Andriamanantenasoa said.

“These policies are particularly focused on the promotion of the extractive and agro-industrial sectors, as well as on the development of the blue economy and the establishment of special economic zones dedicated to foreign investors. As a result, these development strategies are characterised by their large ecological footprint and land encroachment, which lead to a recurrent land grabbing issue.”

The forum organized by UN Human Rights and CRAAD-IO ended with the adoption of the Antananarivo Declaration for Climate Justice, which was developed by the youth of Madagascar’s social movement for climate justice to alert national authorities on economic, social and cultural rights issues linked to climate change. They also hope the Declaration will support their advocacy towards the Government to promote and integrate environment education in schools; set up a “Green Climate Fund” and ensure youth access to the fund; amend the Malagasy penal code to introduce environmental offenses; operationalize a Green Court; and ratify the optional protocol to International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

At COP21 in Paris in 2015, developed countries were urged to scale up their support to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries.

“At the COP, we are asking that the big countries of the Global North pay their historical, ecological and climate debt to Madagascar. They have made so many commitments and now is the time to compensate for the irreversible loss and damage that their actions have caused,” she said.

“They need to try to restore, if at all still possible, the damages they have caused and try to implement adaptation and mitigation measures in consultation with local communities,” Andriamanantenasoa added. “So far decisions for carbon compensation have been made at the top but the money has not reached the local communities. We need concrete climate plans with concrete measures that can have a concrete impact on the people.”

17 November 2021

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