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35th anniversary UN Declaration on the Right to Development

Climate change: Time to move from promises to action

03 December 2021



UN human rights experts* have issued an urgent call for greater transparency and rigorous follow up to the outcomes of COP26 in a statement marking the 35th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. Their full statement is as follows:

“The 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 26)** resulted in a number of important commitments to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement (2015), such as the pledge by the leaders of more than 100 countries to end deforestation by 2030, the agreement by more than 100 countries to cut emissions of methane by 30 percent by the end of this decade, and the establishment of a ratchet system requiring States to strengthen their commitments on a yearly basis. The world’s largest and wealthiest economies, however failed to make sufficiently strong commitments to keep planetary warming to 1.5°C. The Conference also failed to ensure sufficient progress on the loss and damage funds, leaving many climate vulnerable countries without the resources necessary to shift to cleaner energy and cope with increasingly extreme weather disasters.

The Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) are grounded in the need for equity between the Global North and South. They call on State parties to address climate change in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and urge developed country parties to take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects (article 3 UNFCCC and Preamble of Paris Agreement). They also recognize that economic and social development, poverty reduction and food security are the among first and overriding priorities of the developing countries and that such priorities are to be taken into account in the context of the implementation of their respective commitments under the Convention (article 4 UNFCCC and Preamble of the Paris Agreement). The Paris Agreement acknowledged that climate change is a common concern of humankind and, when taking action to address climate change, countries must respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality. Parties to the Paris Agreement have further agreed on making finance flows consistent with climate-resilient development (Article 2(c)).

To address the double challenge of climate emergency and the worldwide COVID pandemic devastating populations and economies and to increase preparedness and resilience for natural disasters and future pandemics, it is imperative for States to act in accordance with the principles underpinning the right to development: participation, progressive realisation, equality within and between countries, international solidarity and cooperation and assistance.
To ensure that commitments resulting from COP26 do not remain empty promises, but are implemented in the spirit of the Convention and the Paris Agreement, State parties need to ensure rapid follow up, by elaborating and making public concrete implementation plans. Such plans need to include specific time frames, allocation of fiscal resources, identify responsible actors as well as ensure just transition by integrating gender perspectives and establishing transparent review processes for their progress.

Thirty-five years ago, the Declaration on the Right to Development provided the promise that everyone is entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development. It also stressed the importance of equality for opportunity for development, as well as the need to eliminate historical and systemic obstacles, including all forms of racism and racial discrimination, in order to achieve the fulfilment of the right to development. Today the world is faced with a climate emergency of unprecedented scale and the window of opportunity to deliver on those promises is rapidly closing. We call on States to move from promises to action.”


* UN experts: Mr. Saad AlfarargiSpecial Rapporteur on the right to development; Mr. Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Ms. Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Obiara Okafor,  Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on debt, other international financial obligations and human rights; Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Mr.Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Mr.Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elżbieta Karska (Vice Chairperson), Ms. Fernanda Hopenhaym, Mr. Githu Muigai, Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises:Mr. Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mr. Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;  Ms. Koumba Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr.Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers;   Ms. Elina Steinerte (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo (Vice-Chair), Ms. Leigh Toomey, Mr. Mumba Malila, Ms. Priya Gopalan, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in the Central African Republic; Mr.Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights;Ms. Muluka Anne Miti-Drummond, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Ms. Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development (Comprising  Mr. Koen de Feyter (Chair), Mr. Armando Antonio de Negri Filho, Ms. Klentiana MahmutajMr. Mihir Kanade and Mr. Bonny Ibhawoh). Mr. Pedro Arrojo Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Ms. Claudia MahlerIndependent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons

** The Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change serves as a meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts 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 that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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