ANTANANARIVO / GENEVA (31 October 2016): The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John H. Knox, today called on the main global emitters to act without delay to help vulnerable countries such as Madagascar avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“Madagascar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change,” Mr. Knox said at the end of his first official visit* to the country. “The major emitters of greenhouse gases must act quickly to implement and to strengthen their mitigation commitments in the Paris Agreement, which enters into force on Friday.”
“At the same time, developed countries must fulfill their commitments to provide financial assistance to countries to enable them to adapt to the effects of climate change,” the expert stressed.
The Special Rapporteur noted that the current drought in southern Madagascar, which UN agencies have stated has caused acute food insecurity for more than 800,000 people, has been attributed to the effect of El Niño, as exacerbated by global warming. To avoid catastrophe, they need more than $100 million in additional funding.
“This terrible drought is a harbinger of future events like it,” he emphasised. “Increasing temperatures will continue to contribute to the frequency and severity of droughts, as well as extreme weather events and sea level rise, all of which will undermine the ability of the Malagasy people to enjoy their rights to health, food, water, and housing, among many others.”
“Human rights are essential to conservation, and vice versa,” Mr. Knox said “The full enjoyment of human rights depends upon a healthy environment, the exercise of human rights helps to ensure the protection of the environment.” For example, he explained, under international human rights law, everyone has the right to information about environmental matters and the right to participate in environmental decision-making.
The expert noted that, despite serious challenges, Madagascar has long been a pioneer in exploring and implementing ways for local communities to participate in the management of, and to receive benefits from, the protection of its invaluable biological diversity, one of the great wonders of the world.
Mr. Knox visited a community park in Andasibe, where a local association safeguards the habitat of lemurs, chameleons, and many other critically endangered species, including by growing and replanting seedlings, providing environmental education, conducting ecotourism, and removing invasive species.
“The work of these local communities is a critical complement to the efforts of the Madagascar National Parks to protect Madagascar’s unique species, which remain under severe threat, including by illegal trafficking to satisfy markets in other countries,” he said.
The independent expert highlighted that the international community and the government of Madagascar itself must redouble its efforts to combat illegal trafficking, including of rosewood and other precious woods, as well as of sea turtles.
During his seven-day visit, Mr. Knox met with a wide range of people, including government officials, members of civil society organizations, and citizens in the community of Andasibe.
The UN Human Rights Council appointed Mr. John H. Knox in 2012 to serve as Independent Expert, and reappointed him in 2015 as Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Council requested him, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University in the United States, to clarify the application of human rights norms to environmental protection, and to identify best practices in the use of human rights obligations in environmental policy-making. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/SRenvironmentIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.