A/76/222: Exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as essential to advancing climate justice
23 July 2021
Freedom of association and assembly
This report, presented at the 76th session of the General Assembly, unpacks the challenges and risks facing individuals, communities and organizations exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in order to support and advance climate justice.
Climate change is today’s greatest threat to life on earth. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has unequivocally stated that in the absence of effective climate action, the world is on a pathway to temperature increases between 3°C to 5°C by 2100, which would simply devastate humanity’s future. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has warned that “the human implications of currently projected levels of global heating are catastrophic” and threaten the enjoyment of all human rights. Many of the climate change impacts have already been observed, including the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and biodiversity loss. Moreover, climate change impacts are disproportionately affecting marginalized communities and poorer regions and countries.
For decades people around the world have organized in associations, formal and informal, to tackle climate change and support effective and equitable measures that would guard against the dangers of global warming. Such associations have produced and analyzed scientific data; helped shape policies based on their technical expertise; fostered collaboration among key stakeholders; helped communities to adapt to climate change impacts; ensured that the voices of marginalized and at-risk populations are taken into account and shed light on issues affecting these populations, and pushed for urgent action, including by organizing demonstrations and peaceful protests.
But over these years the global community’s response to climate change has been unacceptably slow, with many governments intentionally delaying action or denying climate change altogether. This inaction has triggered a new wave of global activism calling for greater ambition now. While the movement is intergenerational and diverse, women and children; indigenous peoples in both the global North and South, and nonviolent protesters have emerged as a new force for action.
This growing global climate justice movement has had remarkable achievements in the last five years. It has transformed the global discourse on climate change; it has led to the adoption of ambitious climate change policies in some countries; and it has raised awareness of the need to increase children, women and indigenous people’s participation into climate change policy making. However, the movement has been met with fierce repression from governments and the private sector. This repression has taken many forms, from protest bans and laws criminalizing legitimate acts of peaceful assembly, to attempts to paint climate defenders as “eco-terrorists,” to online harassment and physical persecution. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the existent restrictions on climate and environmental defenders as states have been enacting emergency measures that further enhance their powers. There is a danger that such new powers and restrictions may outlast the pandemic and may become the new norm.
It is in this context the Special Rapporteur will devote his next thematic report to the General Assembly at its 76th session to the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to advance climate justice.
Key questions and types of input sought
The Special Rapporteur therefore wishes to receive inputs, by responding to the following questionnaire to help enrich this upcoming report.