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The impacts of climate change on the right to food
by UN Office for Human Rights (OHCHR)
10:19am 4th Jul, 2023
July 2023
The adverse impact of climate change on the full realization of the right to food, statement by Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.
We know that our environment is burning. It's melting. It's flooding. It's depleting. It's drying. It's dying. The predictable, regular swing of the seasons is wildly off course.
Cyclones of unprecedented proportions whip up lethal storm surges. A heatwave pulsates across the ocean, threatening marine life, fisheries and coral. And inland seas and lakes, which have nourished generation upon generation of farmers and fishers, are turning into dust bowls. I saw that earlier this year near the Aral Sea when I visited Uzbekistan.
Yet still we are not acting with the urgency and determination that is required. Leaders perform the choreography of deciding to act and promising to act and then... get stuck in the short term.
On our current course, the average temperature increase by the end of this century is predicted to be 3° Celsius, and our ecosystems – our air, our food, our water, and human life itself – would be unrecognisable.
Vast territories would disappear under rising oceans, or become effectively uninhabitable, due to heat and lack of water. Last August, the temperature in Basrah, in southern Iraq, rose to 52.6°C. I will be travelling to Iraq later this year, in part to highlight the risks of this dystopian future.
Our topic for discussion is the right to food, and clearly this is comprehensively threatened by climate change.
Extreme weather events, and both sudden and gradual disasters caused by climate change, wipe out crops, herds, fisheries and entire ecosystems. Their repetition makes it impossible for communities to rebuild and support themselves.
Globally, there has been a 134% increase in climate-fueled, flood-related disasters between 2000-2023.
More than 828 million people faced hunger in 2021. And climate change is projected to place at least 80 million more people at risk of hunger by the middle of this century – creating a truly terrifying scale of desperation and need.
Already, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, weather extremes related to climate change have damaged the productivity of all agricultural and fishery sectors, with negative consequences for people’s food security and livelihoods. Currently, this impact is worst for small-scale farmers, and for people in Africa below the Sahara; across Asia, in small island States, and in Central and South America.
As global heating accelerates, these repercussions will grow more widespread and more intense. No country will be spared. The worst hit will be people in countries where there is already food insecurity, and where protection systems are not sufficiently robust to respond effectively to climate shocks.
Often, these are countries that benefitted little from industrial development, and contributed next to nothing to the industrial processes which are killing our environment and violating rights.
If this is not a human rights issue, what is? We must not deliver this future of hunger and suffering to our children, and their children. And we don't have to.
We, the generation with the most powerful technological tools in history, have the capacity to change it. If we put an end to senseless subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and start phasing out of fossil fuels.
If we make the upcoming climate conference COP28 the decisive game-changer that we so badly need. If courts around the world that are engaged in climate litigation cases hold businesses and Governments to account. If we shun the greenwashers and those who cast doubt on evidence and facts, out of their own greed.
If we rise above the forces of polarisation, and unify around the imperative of doing the utmost to address climate change, and as a result fulfil human rights.
If we transform international development and financing institutions into engines of climate action, so that the countries and people most affected gain access to climate financing.
If measures to uphold good governance are adopted, so that when financing becomes available, it brings support, and remedy, to the most affected people.
Then a just transition to a green economy – nationally, and globally – can take place. We can fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. We can realise our universal right to food. And we can uphold our right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as was adopted by the General Assembly last year.
We can. Because there is still time to act. But that time is now. We must not leave this for our children to fix – no matter how inspiring their activism. The people who must act – who have the responsibility to act – are our leaders, today.
I ask every member of this Council to take this clear message out of this meeting and into every aspect of their work. Addressing climate change is a human rights issue. And the world demands action, now.
June 2023
Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE-FSN) of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has launched its flagship report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition”.
Despite significant progress in reducing global poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition over the past decades, the world continues to grapple with the alarming increase in hunger and malnutrition. The launch of this report comes at a crucial time and highlights the urgent need to address inequalities for food security and nutrition (FSN), and their devastating impact on communities worldwide.
The consequences of such inequalities are far-reaching, diminishing people's life chances, hampering productivity, perpetuating poverty, and impeding economic growth. Unequal food security and nutrition outcomes have even sparked political unrest, eventually leading to protests and food riots.
Inequalities in food security and nutrition, between countries and regions and within countries, communities and households, exist throughout the world. This report provides a conceptual framework for assessing inequalities in food security and nutrition, the inequalities within and outside food systems that underpin them, and the systemic drivers of such inequalities.
The report highlights the ethical, socioeconomic, legal and practical imperatives for addressing these inequalities. It emphasizes that food is a fundamental human right and that inequalities in food security and nutrition undermine this right.
In addition, by applying an intersectional understanding of inequalities – that is, considering the cumulative effects of multiple interacting inequalities on marginalized peoples – the report contributes to a more inclusive understanding and sustainable action to reduce food security and nutrition inequalities.
The report proposes a set of measures to reduce inequalities, both within and beyond food systems. It emphasizes the need for a transformative agenda, aiming for structural change towards equity.
By providing actionable recommendations addressing the systemic drivers of food security and nutrition and advocating for actions in favour of equity and equality, the report contributes to global efforts towards achieving food security and improving overall well-being, leaving no one behind.
June 2023
53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Farida Shaheed
Education is a human right - Joint Statement on children’s education
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Dominican Republic, Luxembourg, and a group of 64 other countries.
Everyone has the right to education: it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which we commemorate the 75th anniversary, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other core human rights instruments.
Regrettably, worldwide, 244 million children and young persons are not getting an education for social, economic and cultural reasons.
The cost of education remains a significant barrier, disproportionately affecting children and adolescents from low-income families, girls, children with disabilities and school age persons in vulnerable situations. Conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the global education crisis.
Furthermore, 4 out of 10 children and young persons do not complete secondary school and nearly half of all children of the world are not enrolled in pre-primary education. A vast majority of countries have not achieved gender parity in secondary education.
Education is a human right and plays a crucial role in the fight against inequality and for the consolidation of sustainable development.
Today, we call on all Member States to guarantee access to free, quality, and inclusive education for all children from pre-school through secondary school, and ensure its adequate funding.
We support efforts to strengthen the right to education, including the explicit right to full free secondary and at least one year of free pre-primary education.
* Joint Statement:
* Securing the right to education: advances and critical challenges - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Farida Shaheed
In her first report to the Human Rights Council, 25 years after the establishment of the mandate on the right to education, the Special Rapporteur reviews achievements, particularly on how the right to education is understood today and the obligations it entails, as well as contemporary and emerging issues that need to be considered to ensure the right to education for all, today and in the future.
June 2023
Job guarantee programmes – whereby the government guarantees a job to anyone willing and able to work – can protect workers from the biggest global employment challenges of our time, according to a new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter.
“With miserable working conditions and low pay affecting the majority of the world’s workers, and disruptions and job losses in labour markets we can expect to see from the rise of AI, it is clear that the world of work needs an urgent rethink,” De Schutter said ahead of his presentation of his report to the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.
“It is no longer enough for governments to merely try to create the right conditions for job growth,” the UN expert said. “Instead, they should guarantee a secure and socially useful job at a living wage for anyone who wants one. Properly understood, this is what the right to work is truly about.”
The International Labour Organisation puts the global jobs gap at 473 million people: 205 million unemployed and 268 million who would like to work but are not actively looking due to circumstances beyond their control such as a lack of childcare. Around two billion people, 60% of the world’s workforce, work in the informal economy, often in extremely low-paid, insecure jobs with little access to employment rights.
“For too long exploitative employers have had the upper hand, knowing workers will choose poorly-paid and insecure work over destitution,” the Special Rapporteur said. “A job guarantee would turn the tables, with workers being able to fall back on government jobs that offer decent conditions and wages.”
While job guarantee programmes in the past have tended to create jobs in infrastructure projects such as building roads or dams, De Schutter’s report highlights the alarming workforce gaps in the care, education and health sectors they could fill.
“The global employment paradox is that while there are too few decent jobs, there is certainly no shortage of work to be done,” De Schutter said. “Spurred largely by our obsession with economic growth at all costs, jobs in the care, education and health sectors are woefully undersupplied by the market despite being of immense value to society – no doubt because they don’t churn out obscene profits.”
“A job guarantee could fill the roles we so desperately need, but that the private sector has no financial incentive to provide,” the expert said.
“A job guarantee scheme should be strictly voluntary and sit alongside, not replace, social protection, as a permanent feature of the labour market,” said De Schutter.
“If designed in this way, it would play a hugely important role in wiping out unemployment, ending the race to the bottom on working conditions, and providing the income security and social inclusion millions urgently need to break free from poverty,” he said.
* Access the report:
June 2023
Closing the gap between the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind and its realisation on the ground, requires urgent action to reinforce respect for freedom of opinion and expression, says Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.
“If development is to be meaningful, then the voices of the most disadvantaged in society must be heard and heeded, and civil society and media must be free to hold the powerful to account,” Khan said in her report on freedom of expression and sustainable development to the Human Rights Council.
“Those who dare to speak truth to power or shine the light on human rights violations, illicit financial flows, tax evasion, corruption and illegal exploitation of natural resources are being gagged, threatened, prosecuted, attacked or killed with impunity,” Khan said.
“Laws on access to information have been widely adopted but requests for information are often denied because of a culture of official secrecy, serious gaps in the scope and implementation of the laws, lack of capacity and resources, a tokenistic approach to participation and uneven access to the Internet,” she said.
“New technologies are creating new inequalities, disproportionately affecting women and girls, Indigenous communities, the poor and the marginalised,” she warned.
The connectivity of those who are already well connected is being enhanced while billions who could have been connected for a fraction of that sum were left unconnected, Khan said.
Khan underscored the value that free flow of information and public debate bring to sustainable development. “They empower individuals, promote accountability, allow Governments to be better informed and more responsive to the needs of their people, and make markets more efficient, generating social and economic dividends,” the expert said.
She urged States to follow good practices of multistakeholder partnerships to build transparency and trust, media freedom to enable reporting on corruption and wrongdoing, and civic space to promote meaningful engagement with communities.
The expert called on companies, including the digital technology sector, to undertake human rights due diligence across their value chain and disclose the impact of their activities on human rights and sustainability.
“As world leaders prepare for the High-Level Summit on Sustainable Development in September, States which most vocally support the Sustainable Development Goals must come forward to invest more heavily in the rights to expression, information and participation that the 2030 Agenda so clearly endorses,” Khan said.
June 2023
UN expert calls for full legal protection for people displaced by climate change
A UN expert today called for full legal protection for people displaced by the impacts of climate change in order to guarantee their human rights.
“The effects of climate change are becoming more severe, and the number of people displaced across international borders is rapidly increasing,” said Ian Fry, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the context of climate change.
“In 2020 alone, 30.7 million people were displaced from their homes due to weather-related events. Droughts were the main factor,” Fry said in his latest in his latest thematic report to the Human Rights Council. “We must take immediate steps to give legal protection to these people.”
The Special Rapporteur said that people displaced by climate change face multiple human rights violations including of their rights to food, water, sanitation, housing, health, education and, for some, their right to life.
“The human rights implications of climate change displacement, in particular across international borders, are significant and truly disturbing,” the expert said.
He called it “profoundly worrying” that large numbers of people displaced across borders die or go missing every year at both land and sea borders. More than 50,000 lost their lives during migratory movements between 2014 and 2022, Fry’s report said.
“It is equally shocking to note that more than half of those deaths occurred on routes to and within Europe, including in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
According to the Special Rapporteur, displacement due to climate change can result from different types of situations, from sudden to slow progressing events like sea level rise or droughts.
Most people affected by these events are forced to move. Women and children being the most impacted by disasters and the effects of climate change, also make up for the majority of displaced people.
“The international community must realise its responsibility to protect people displaced across borders by climate change impacts,” the expert said.
Fry explained that the world was not operating in a total vacuum in terms of legal protection of people displaced due to climate change. He said there were several international human rights safeguards to address the issue.
“The Human Rights Council should prepare a resolution for submission to the UN General Assembly urging the body to develop an optional protocol under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to address displacement and legal protection for people all over the world affected by the climate crisis,” the expert said.
“Until then, I urge all nations to develop national legislation to provide humanitarian visas for persons displaced across international borders due to climate change, as an interim measure,” he said.
June 2023
Deaths in custody: A silent global tragedy that cannot go on, by Morris Tidball-Binz - UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
A UN expert today urged States to respect and protect the lives of all those deprived of liberty and step-up efforts to eradicate the scourge of deaths in custody.
“Tens of thousands of prisoners die every year around the world, although the exact numbers are unknown due to the prevailing inadequacies in recording, investigating and reliably reporting these deaths,” said Morris Tidball-Binz, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in his report to the Human Rights Council.
“Globally, victims often belong to the most economically and socially marginalised sectors of society, which helps to explain the invisibility of the phenomenon,” he said.
Focusing on the phenomenon of deaths in prisons, the report aims to make these deaths visible and help eradicate a largely preventable global tragedy. It sheds light on the global phenomenon of deaths in custody in the criminal justice system, from the moment of arrest, including pre-trial and post-conviction.
“States have a duty to respect and protect the fundamental right to life of those deprived of liberty,” Tidball-Binz said. “Most of these deaths should simply not happen.”
He made recommendations, based on international standards, best practices and concrete examples from different regions, for effective investigation and prevention of all deaths in custody, including reducing imprisonment, improving prison conditions, addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals and groups, reducing violence, and ensuring sound monitoring and accountability procedures, as well as reliable data collection and analysis on prisoner deaths to inform and guide interventions.
“States can – and must – drastically reduce the incidence of deaths in prisons and effectively prevent their occurrence through a number of practical and relatively inexpensive measures,” the expert said.
Tidball-Binz stressed that the rights of prison staff should also be respected, including the provision of adequate wages and working conditions. “States should ensure that competent management is in place and that prisons are well managed,” he said.
“Any death in custody is potentially unlawful,” Tidball-Binz said. “The duty to properly investigate all deaths in custody is not an option, but an obligation under international law.”
Investigations should be prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent, the expert said. Findings should inform the design and implementation of sound and evidence-based reparative and preventive measures and policies, the expert said.
June 2023
Torture and other grave human rights violations continue to be widely reported across many armed conflicts. Today, more than 100 armed conflicts are ongoing worldwide, devastating communities, winding back development, and posing severe obstacles to the protection and enjoyment of human rights.
On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the UN anti-torture mechanisms call on States to uphold the absolute prohibition of torture. The UN human rights experts remind all participants in conflict that the protections of international human rights law do not cease to be applicable in situations of conflict.
The prohibition against torture is a jus cogens norm of international law, a fundamental principle that applies at all times and in all circumstances. This applies to all parties to a conflict.
The pervasive character of this norm is illustrated by the explicit prohibition of torture, not only as referenced in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and established in other international and regional human rights treaties, but also under international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
“The Committee regularly reminds States of their obligations under the Convention to ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of military personnel, especially those charged with duties related to detention. States must take a zero-tolerance approach in investigating and prosecuting acts of torture committed by their regular armed forces, and those forces under their effective control,” said Claude Heller, Chairperson of the Committee against Torture. “A vital first step in this is the explicit criminalisation of torture at the domestic level.”
States who have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are required to establish National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), which are mandated to conduct visits to places of deprivation of liberty to prevent practices and procedures that present a risk of acts of torture being committed. In countries that have not ratified the OPCAT and have no NPMs, national human rights institutions or other monitoring bodies can frequently take on this role.
Suzanne Jabbour, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, urged States to “ensure that, also in situations of armed conflict, all possible measures are taken to allow NPMs and other detention monitoring bodies continued access and monitoring to all places of deprivation of liberty.” Jabbour also called on non-State actors to facilitate similar access, stressing that “the prevention of torture is a must in all circumstances and in the interest of all parties to a conflict.”
Armed conflict poses significant challenges to the rule of law and the functioning of State institutions. Continued monitoring and documentation of acts of torture during armed conflict is essential to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions.
“War and civil conflicts can provide cover for torturers to behave with impunity”, said Alice Jill Edwards, the Special Rapporteur on Torture. “Today I am cautioning States and individuals that the use of torture is completely unacceptable and prohibited. Perpetrators must be held to account. Soldiers have a special duty to disobey orders to carry out torture or other ill-treatment and States must establish laws to protect them against prosecution for doing so. Everyone must stand up to torturers and those who condone it.”
The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, which gives direct help to victims of torture and their families, underlined the disastrous effects of war on civilians, and the impact that torture has on the lives of victims. Lawrence Mute, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, expressed his concerns that the needs of survivors are often overlooked during armed conflict and transitional justice processes.
“States must do their utmost to ensure speedy access to rehabilitative services for victims of torture, including medical, psychological, legal, social and humanitarian assistances. During armed conflict, State services are prone to deteriorate, at a time when victims need them most. This is especially the case for specialised services for victims of torture subjected to discrimination or in more vulnerable situations, such as people with disabilities and members of minority communities, including national or ethnic, racial, indigenous, religious, sexual and gender minorities,” he said.
Mar. 2023
States must pursue justice “at home” for crimes of torture, to achieve meaningful accountability, healing and reconciliation, the UN independent expert on torture said today.
In a report to the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, Alice Edwards, urged national authorities to take ownership of justice processes and operate as primary responders in cases of torture and other inhuman treatment.
“Despite the growth in international criminal courts and tribunals and our collective commitment to those entities, their capacity to deal with the scale and scope of torture crimes being perpetrated today will never be enough,” Edwards said, emphasising the importance of national proceedings.
In her report, the Special Rapporteur pointed at a “glaring gap” between the promise and reality of the international prohibition of torture and recalled that every State has a duty to criminalise and investigate crimes of torture in national law, prosecute or extradite suspects, and sentence offenders with penalties that reflect the gravity of the offence.
“The national duty to investigate torture is alarmingly, universally, under-implemented,” she said.
The report highlighted the main obstacles hindering full and prompt investigations into allegations of torture, including institutional, regulatory, political, and practical challenges. The report also shared promising State practices to implement the duty to investigate torture, including documenting that at least 105 countries have adopted an explicit criminal offence of torture.
Despite this progress, Edwards said too few incidents of torture and other ill-treatment are officially reported, and – of those that are reported – cases regularly collapse or are withdrawn before a satisfactory conclusion.
“The difference between a crime of torture and an ordinary crime is that torture is first and foremost a crime committed or enabled by public officials. This power asymmetry between the accuser and the accused puts the alleged victim in a situation of particular precarity,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Edwards’ report documented how victims were often threatened and intimidated into withdrawing their allegations, risking vexatious counter-allegations and associated reputational damage, or distrusting the wheels of justice.
"Complainants may still be in custody or under the control of the very authorities they are making allegations against," she said. "The risks of retaliation and violence - including further torture or 'disappearance' - are real. The stakes are high.”
The expert called on States to establish independent investigative bodies that ensure that victims and survivors were ‘given voice’, fully empowered and could actively participate in any legal proceedings involving torture.
She urged States to treat complainants with due respect, compassion and dignity and to offer appropriate rehabilitation and protection measures.
“Early access to trauma counselling and other forms of rehabilitation are not only in the interests of complainant’s mental health, but they also help them become more reliable witnesses in court proceedings,” she said.
"National torture trials are not a threat to state authority. On the contrary, what threatens a government’s legitimacy is torturing persons, refusing to investigate and try the perpetrators, and allowing the torturers to go unpunished," Edwards said.
“A state’s legitimacy will be enhanced if they indeed defend truth and justice, rather than be seen as accomplices in the crime of torture.”
Mar. 2023
Women, girls and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
(Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, David Boyd).
All people depend on nature for their life, health and well-being, from the oxygen in air produced by plants on land and at sea, to crops pollinated by birds, bats and bees and other insects. Everyone has the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
This includes clean air; access to safe water and adequate sanitation; healthy and sustainably produced food; non-toxic environments in which to live, work, study and play; healthy biodiversity and ecosystems; and a safe climate.
Unfortunately, gender-based stereotypes, biases, inequalities and discrimination profoundly restrict women and girls’ enjoyment of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
This also affects the rights to life, health, adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, education and an adequate standard of living, cultural rights and child rights.
It has been 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights boldly stated that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which currently has 189 States parties, entered into force in 1981. Despite remarkable progress towards gender equality in some States, systemic discrimination persists.
Laws that discriminate against women and girls, sociocultural norms that reduce their agency, and stereotypes about femininity, masculinity and gender-assigned roles continue to restrict the political and economic power of women and girls in every State and every sphere of society.
The planetary environmental crisis affects everyone, everywhere, but not equally. Harmful gender norms, stereotypes, biases and discrimination exclude women and girls from participating in environmental decision-making and enjoying a fair share of nature’s benefits, while imposing disproportionate impacts related to the climate emergency, biodiversity collapse and pervasive pollution.
According to the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “the exclusion of half of society from effectively helping to shape environmental policies means those policies will be less responsive to the specific damage being caused, less effective in protecting communities and may even intensify the harm being done”.
Sustainable development depends on the gender-transformative realization of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as recognized in United Nations resolutions.
In its pioneering resolution 48/13, adopted in 2021, the Human Rights Council emphasized that States must fully respect human rights obligations, including those related to gender equality.
In its resolution 76/300, adopted in 2022, the UN General Assembly recognized the importance of gender equality, gender responsive action to address climate change and environmental degradation, the empowerment, leadership, decision-making and full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls, and the role that women play as managers, leaders and defenders of natural resources and agents of change in safeguarding the environment.
As demonstrated by their impressive but under-appreciated contributions to protecting the environment, women and girls are powerful, transformative agents of change who should be primarily viewed not as victims, but as equal, indispensable partners and leaders in the transition to a just and sustainable future.
In order for women and girls to realize their rights and potential, nature must be conserved, protected and restored, pollution must be prevented and urgent action must be taken to achieve a safe climate.
The voices of women and girls must be heard, their ideas implemented and their stewardship work rewarded. To facilitate these advances, society must dismantle the beliefs, norms, institutions and systems that perpetuate gender discrimination.
The global economy is broken. It is based on two pillars – the exploitation of people and the exploitation of the planet – that are fundamentally unjust, unsustainable and incompatible with human rights. Similarly, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) observed that environmental crises “are deeply rooted in an economic system that fails to value, protect, nourish and invest in what is essential”.
Like women’s disproportionate unpaid labour and contributions to the care economy, nature’s contributions to people are a critical foundation for human health and the economy but are taken for granted.
Skewed value systems that champion profit, growth and domination of nature fuel discrimination, environmental injustice and the oppression, erasure and exploitation of women, girls and other vulnerable groups.
Businesses abuse human rights with impunity, worsen inequality, pollute, destroy nature and exacerbate the climate crisis. Powerful marketing methods exploit stereotypes and drive gendered patterns of unsustainable consumption (e.g. meat, cars, cosmetics and fashion) to the detriment of women, girls, human rights and the environment.
As a result, women and girls face profound socioeconomic disadvantages that erode their political agency and power. Legal, social and cultural obstacles prevent them from securing jobs, promotions and leadership positions, and limit their access to land, natural resources, finance, technologies, agricultural equipment and inputs, training and extension services.
The following facts illustrate the pervasive, devastating nature of gender discrimination today:
(a) Women comprise 70 per cent of the world’s poor; rural women have fared worse than rural men and urban women and men on every development indicator;
(b) Women do three times more unpaid household and care work than men in both high- and low-income countries, resulting in time poverty, lower employment and lower earnings;
(c) Women are overrepresented in informal economies (and thus lack social and legal protections); receive 20 per cent lower wages than men for the same work; and frequently experience worse working conditions;
(d) Women are underrepresented in leadership, management and decision-making roles across all levels and all sectors:
(i) Across 156 countries, women hold only 22.9 per cent of parliament seats and represent only 16.1 per cent of ministers;
(ii) In 2022, only 8.8 per cent of chief executive officers at Fortune 500 companies were women.
At current rates of progress, it will take 286 years to repeal or amend discriminatory laws and close gaps in legal protection for women and girls, and 155 years to close the political empowerment gap.
Making matters worse, many gender gaps have widened as a result of the economic, health and social consequences of the coronavirus disease (COVID 19) pandemic.
Gender discrimination and stereotypes affect girls from a young age, as they are treated as inferior in many States and cultures, undermining their self-esteem and leading to lifelong inequality, deprivation and exclusion.
For example, domestic obligations imposed on girls – including water and fuel collection, cooking, cleaning, care-giving and other time-consuming tasks that interfere with girls’ education, play and development – are rooted in cultural norms and traditions that give men and boys preferential treatment.
States must tackle the root causes of gender inequality. To fulfil women and girls’ human rights, gender-transformative changes to laws, policies, programmes and projects, as well as education, awareness-building and training are urgently needed. Human rights, based on the bedrock of equality and non-discrimination, can and should be a catalyst for needed systemic changes.
Although the present report is focused on the right of women and girls to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, all human rights are interrelated, undermined by inequality and gender discrimination, and compounded by intersecting vulnerabilities related to race, ethnicity, poverty, age, sexual orientation, migration status and disability.
* Access the report:
Mar. 2023
Transformation of services for persons with disabilities - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Gerard Quinn.
There is a clear need to adopt a new philosophy to govern the design and delivery of support to persons with disabilities based on their moral agency, autonomy and social inclusion. States must transition away from service models based exclusively on impairment.
New kinds of partnerships are needed to realize this new philosophy. States must redefine the “public interest” and determine how to invest in and shape the provision of services. Support must shift from medically dominated systems that rely on coercion to support that is freely chosen.
Active consultation with persons with disabilities is therefore required, to determine what persons with disabilities need and want. The business sector must embrace its human rights responsibilities and become a partner for change.
Change requires a new lexicon that rejects labels such as “client”, “consumer” and “service user” and focuses on the core rights of citizenship.
Policy tools to manage change include supported decision-making models to create individualized support, peer support networks, independent living centres, standards for public procurement and contract compliance, competition law to create space for new market entrants, and new technology, including artificial intelligence.
The provision of support for families, collection of data on system performance, incentivization of new support providers, adoption of standards for service providers and enhancement of oversight and monitoring are likewise needed.
* Access the report:
Mar. 2023
Conflict and the right to food: - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Nonetheless, the world is rife with discrimination and inequality. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exposed just how deadly discrimination and inequality can be.
Along with others, the Special Rapporteur has identified systemic discrimination and structural inequality as root causes of human rights violations. Human rights law commonly addresses inequality by focusing on people who are poor, vulnerable or marginalized.
Echoing his own previous reports as well as recent ones by other mandate holders, the Special Rapporteur reiterates that human rights law requires scrutinizing how people are made poor, vulnerable or marginalized. How is inequality produced?
Structural inequality is not a natural occurrence or anomalous. It is produced by systems, including food systems. The right to food can be fully realized only once all actors involved understand how our food systems are making people vulnerable to harm.
The mandate holder has observed over the years how violence in food systems can be detrimental, especially to marginalized people, smaller communities, isolated families and workers who lack the resources for collective bargaining and action.
All food providers – be it a parent, worker, small-scale or large-scale food producer – are particularly vulnerable to violence in times of distress and crisis. When food providers are vulnerable, communities are vulnerable.
Violence in food systems has increased in recent years owing to the interdependence of various factors affecting global food security. For example, the rural communities dealing with the loss of traditional livelihoods and farmers who confront land-grabbing by powerful businesses are in many instances already severely affected by climate change and drought.
Communities that have to take on an overwhelming struggle against corporations for the preservation of their ancestral lands, traditional knowledge and seeds are often the ones that, during the global pandemic, relied heavily on their own such knowledge, ancestral dietary habits and holistic practices for survival.
In preparing the present report, the Special Rapporteur found that structural inequality had made mass amounts of people more vulnerable to violence; in turn, systemic violence has been a significant cause of structural inequality. This vicious cycle of structural inequality and systemic violence causes widespread human rights violations.
Food systems not only produce food but also generate and amplify violence that makes people more poor, vulnerable and marginalized. In the report, the Special Rapporteur gives an account of different forms of violence in food systems that harm people and generate the conditions that lead to human rights violations.
He does not attempt to address all forms of violence in food systems; instead, he draws from the inputs received to provide a narrative on how different interests and identities experience shared forms of violence.
The Special Rapporteur frames violence as systemic, focusing on how violence inherently structures food systems. He outlines four interconnected and overlapping forms of violence: discrimination; bodily harm or assault against a person’s physical and mental integrity; ecological violence; and erasure.
Food systems rely on a global economy of dependency and extractivism. In a joint study, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) found that violence and conflict remain the drivers of acute hunger in many parts of the world. They concluded that both hunger and violence would increase in 2022, especially as the global economy deteriorated.
Over the past four years, global rates of hunger have risen and are expected to continue to rise in the near future, leading to record humanitarian needs. Conflict and natural disasters alone cannot, however, explain this trend. Understanding systemic violence in food systems requires viewing them as part of the global economy.
Today’s global economy is the continuation of a centuries-long process characterized by a dynamic of dependency and extractivism undergirded by international law at large and national legal regimes. Countries and transnational corporations, in their pursuit of extracting resources from nature, have disrupted and reconfigured people’s social and ecological relationships, limiting people’s ability to have a stable livelihood and attacking people’s very existence.
This degree of disruption and reconfiguration is a violent act against people, undermining their dignity and humanity, often through categories of disability, race and gender. The resulting structural inequality is illustrated by the fact that people in situations of vulnerability and from marginalized communities are usually – and predictably – at the losing end of having their rights met, especially their right to food.
Systemic violence violates the right to life by limiting or denying people access to the necessities of life: land, seeds, water, fair and stable markets and dignified work. When people are dispossessed of their land or work in hostile conditions, they are more exposed to harm on a regular basis.
With less secure access to land or dignified work, people have less bargaining power because they are limited in their ability to negotiate favourable terms in commercial transactions or for work. This is how systemic violence makes people vulnerable and dependent while enabling a relatively small group to take advantage of their vulnerability. It allows the few who already have power and resources to gain the ability to restrict access to what is necessary to reproduce life, generating more violence and inequality.
During today’s food crisis, transnational corporations in the agrifood sector are profiteering while people struggle and suffer as life gets harder. Markets today amplify the crisis and are prone to volatility because of a global food system that relies on a small number of industrially produced staple grains, a small number of countries to produce those grains for export, and a small number of corporations that dominate the agrifood market.
Since the 1980s, the dominant global common sense has been that Governments should no longer use international agricultural policy to cooperate or to try and stabilize markets; instead, policymakers have been driven by short-term calculations of rapid production and maximizing profit.
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