On Human Rights, Climate Change, Migrants and Persons Displaced across International Borders

United Nations Human Rights Council. Photograph: UN Photo

On Friday 6 October, the Foundation, in its capacity as an observer organisation, attended the United Nations Human Rights Council’s intersessional panel discussion ‘On Human Rights, Climate Change, Migrants and Persons Displaced across International Borders’.

The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities in the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights climate displaced migrants with a view to feeding recommendations into the process of negotiating the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration as well as the UNFCCC Taskforce on Displacement.

The intersessional panel included introductions from Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Louise Arbour (via video), UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for International Migration.  Special Representative Arbour underscored the importance of the Panel, noting that ‘those in vulnerable situations are particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change’.  She also pushed for greater engagement on gender equality and empowerment in the process, reminding us that ‘when women lead change happens’.  These sentiments were echoed by the four panelists; Walter Kaelin, Envoy to the Chair of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, Njeri Kabeberi, Executive Director, Greenpeace Africa, Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti, National Coordinator, Kiribati National Youth Association of NGOs and Erika Ramos, Founder, South American Network for Environmental Migrations (RESAMA).

Each panelist contributed valuable information on the their engagement in the issue from a variety of perspectives.  Mr Kaelin said that climate displacement ‘measures must respect all relevant human rights guarantees, including the rights to information and participation of affected persons or the protection of their property, the rights of women and children or the rights of indigenous peoples and cultural rights’.

The Foundation was particularly pleased by the focus many parties, and NGO participants, as well as panelists put on the importance of participation and self-determination.  Without the voices of those impacted climate displacement policies cannot effectively meet their needs, and will invariably fail in delivering a human rights based approach.

In addition to the above, the Foundation was also grateful to hear a number of States and NGOs bring up some of the less engaged rights, which are of particular importance to climate displaced people including;

  • the right to development, noting that there is an interconnection between development, climate resilience and climate migration
  • Education as a cross cutting issue, including education in relation to migration pathways including for those at risk of climate displacement
  • the right to access to, and enjoyment of cultural heritage of communities identified as being at risk of climate displacement

The Foundation looks forward to OHCHR producing its summary report of the panel discussion which shall ultimately influence the outcome of the Global Compact process.

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