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Human rights need to be at center of climate action stage

COSTA RICA (October 9, 2019) — “Too long working independently of each other, the environmental and human rights movements now need to come much closer together,” said Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour at the PreCOP. Congratulating Costa Rica for its leadership in both areas, Gilmour called for environmentalists acting at global, regional and national levels to fully factor human rights into their climate action plans.

Ahead of the preCOP, ASG Gilmour joined human rights experts, government officials, and judges at a workshop co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, the UN Human Rights Office, and the Center for International Environmental Law to discuss practical measures for integrating human rights in climate action. “We in the human rights movement have to recognize that the climate crisis will have an overwhelming negative impact on what are already the poorest countries and the most vulnerable communities.”

He quoted the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who recently said of climate change that the world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope. Gilmour continued, “climate change is a threat not only to all economic and social rights – such as food, housing and livelihoods – but also to civil and political rights.”

The ASG called for action in two areas. First, protecting the environmental human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and land rights defenders who are being increasingly threatened and killed. Second, it is vital that all parties engaged in climate action do more to ensure that everyone concerned is given the space to meaningfully participate. To this end, he called for States to adopt rules for implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement at COP25 that require effective stakeholder consultations.

During his visit to Costa Rica, the Assistant Secretary-General met the President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as representatives of UN organizations, indigenous peoples, youth organizations, trade unions, civil society, and the women and gender constituency. The ASG expressed his gratitude to the President for his Government’s role in hosting a PreCOP with human rights at its core and for consistently supporting the international human rights agenda.

Gilmour also delivered a key message from youth activists he met from many Latin American countries. “What we have heard loud and clear from youth representatives throughout the region is that they are not receiving adequate education on either human rights or climate change,” he said. “Without such education they cannot hope to play a meaningful role in asserting their own rights, defending the rights of others, or contributing to efforts to reduce carbon emissions and ensure effective climate action.”

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For more information, please contact the UN Human Rights media team at media@ohchr.org