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UN Rights experts call on States to uphold human rights in climate agreement
by OHCHR, Christian Aid, Caritas, Reuters, agencies
10 Dec. 2018
COP24: Christian Aid criticises USA, Saudi and China attacks on human rights at climate talks
On international human rights day, Christian Aid criticised countries including the USA, Saudi Arabia, India and China for trying to remove references to human rights from the Paris Rulebook being negotiated at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland.
Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, at Christian Aid, said: “Climate change is one of the human rights issues of our time. Nothing is more fundamental than the right to breathe clean air. If you can’t drink because of drought or eat because rising seas have killed your crops then that very much impacts your human rights.
“Attempts to remove language around human rights from the climate change negotiations shows the utter disregard these countries have for the world’s poorest people.”
6 Dec. 2018
Climate Change and Human Rights. (OHCHR)
Joint statement of the United Nations Special Procedures Mandate Holders on the occasion of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC
As independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council, we call on States to fully integrate human rights standards and principles in the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change (the Paris Rulebook).
In a significant breakthrough, in 2015, Parties to the Paris Agreement recognized the need to integrate their human rights obligations and their efforts to address climate change, pledging to respect and protect human rights in all climate actions.
Now, as the Parties meet in Katowice, Poland for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (3 to 14 December 2018), they must take the necessary steps to operationalize their human rights obligations as they finalize the Paris Rulebook.
Climate change is one of today’s greatest threats to human rights, as illustrated in the recently released Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which describes the ways in which climate change is transforming life on earth and adversely impacting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
The IPCC concluded that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed to prevent catastrophic climate impacts. Unfortunately, the existing commitments of State Parties to the Paris Agreement—through their nationally determined contributions—put the world heading for over 3°C of warming.
The impacts of climate change are already interfering with a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, housing, water, development and freedom of movement – as massive population displacement is increasingly triggered, often in the form of forced displacement, which may lead to increased vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons – as well as the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.
The responses taken to address climate change and its impacts (mitigation and adaptation measures) may also threaten the enjoyment of human rights.
For example, when such measures are developed and implemented without the full and effective participation or consent of those concerned, they may result in human rights violations and/or unsustainable outcomes.
For these reasons, as human rights experts we urge States to rapidly deploy effective actions capable of achieving the 1.5°C target in the Paris Agreement.
As we have stated previously, and as recognized in the Paris Agreement, States must ensure that all actions taken to address climate change are in full accordance with their human rights obligations.
Such obligations not only help to prevent or minimize harm but also “have the potential to inform and strengthen international and national policy making in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence, legitimacy and sustainable outcomes.”
As we look ahead to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2018, the Special Procedures mandate holders continue to lend support to all those involved in integrating human rights into climate actions.
We further call on States:
To commit to urgently increase their ambition, given the grave nature of the climate crisis and the pressing need for scaled-up mitigation efforts; to adopt without delay a comprehensive set of guidelines and modalities that ensures the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
These should reflect States’ obligations under international human rights law, as acknowledged in the Paris Agreement, in particular the need for rights-based, participatory and gender-responsive climate action that promotes a just transition and food security for all.
Parties must ensure that these principles are fully integrated into the guidelines and modalities.. We encourage businesses to integrate climate change considerations in their policies and practices, including their human rights due diligence processes and impact assessments; and to ensure full and effective participation, access to information and transparency in the formal negotiations as well as in the public spaces where actors from civil society can gather and exercise their rights to freedom of expression and opinion, association and peaceful assembly. Meaningful and effective participation of a wide-range of actors in decision-making processes is critical to successful outcomes.
The outcomes of COP 24 are fundamentally important to the future of humanity. Decisions made and actions taken by States must demonstrate unprecedented boldness in order to effectively address the monumental challenges of climate change while simultaneously respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights.
Dec. 2018
Climate action must not leave human rights behind - Caritas Internationalis and Secours Catholique (Caritas France), Amnesty International, CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law), CARE International, agencies.
Seventy years ago, in the wake of World War II, the world emerged from one of its darkest times. This led the international community to send a clear message to future generations: “Never again!”
Through the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, countries enshrined fundamental rights for the dignity and the integrity of every human being, so that humanity will never suffer again from such horrendous acts.
Seven decades later, humanity faces one of the most daunting challenges and injustices of all times. Climate change is already, and will increasingly provoke humanitarian disasters, displacing millions of people. Climate change threatens the enjoyment of a wide range of rights including those to water, food, health, culture, development, a healthy environment, and life itself.
And it exacerbates gender inequality and other forms of discrimination. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published this October warns that if we fail to urgently and massively scale up climate action, the 1.5°C global warming defence line will be reached between 2030 and 2052, and will have devastating and irreversible consequences across the world.
Several hundreds of millions more people will experience poverty if we do not keep the increase of global average temperature below 1.5°C. The scientific community echoes a long-standing call issued, loud and clear, by civil society - governments do not have the luxury to turn a blind eye on climate change. Inaction shows utter contempt for humanity and is a violation of human rights.
The good news is that we can still prevent a humanitarian crisis on the scale of what the world faced 70 years ago. It is now in our hands to reverse the trend of rising greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015 countries have already committed, through the Paris Agreement, to pursue all efforts to keep global warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and to implement action to tackle climate change in a way that respects and promotes human rights.
Now, at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), governments must complete a critical task: finalising a set of guidelines to deliver on the Paris Agreement promises. This 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a timely reminder of the necessity of this action. There can be no trade-offs between climate action and respect for human rights.
We fear that instead of taking action to drastically reduce global emissions, some governments might turn to ineffective and dangerous technical ‘fixes’, such as massive sequestration of carbon in soils.
By doing so, these countries would prevent smallholder food producers from cultivating their land, severely threatening their ability to produce food, access water and maintain their livelihoods. It is unacceptable for governments to continue to nurture a vicious circle of poverty and human rights violations: they must gain the courage to take bold action.
Future generations deserve better. Climate action must embrace solutions based on fully realising human rights, among others, by ensuring meaningful public participation throughout the design, implementation, and evaluation of climate policies. It is critical to respond adequately to people’s needs and ensure the broadest public support for climate action.
We should not have to choose between tackling climate change and fighting poverty: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development makes it clear - these two struggles represent two sides of the same coin and must be achieved in unison.
For example, experience shows that indigenous peoples whose rights over their ancestral lands are recognised by public authorities can play a better role in safeguarding the forests and protecting the carbon stored in them. This brings social co-benefits for the communities themselves, along with enhanced biodiversity and resilience.
This 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more than a number, and more than a celebration. It is an urgent call to action to consider human rights in the light of climate change. By making this commitment on December 10, 1948, governments made a promise to humanity. Now is the moment to give it a new meaning.

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ICC member countries should oppose efforts to discredit ‘Court of Last Resort’
by Human Rights Watch
Dec. 2018
International Criminal Court (ICC) member countries should reaffirm the court’s mandate in the face of United States threats to weaken its essential role in international justice, Human Rights Watch said today. The 17th session of the court’s annual meeting, the Assembly of States Parties, will take place in The Hague from December 5 to 12, 2018.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has sought to undermine the court’s legitimacy and threatened to thwart investigations involving the US or its allies. On September 10, the US national security adviser, John Bolton, declared that the US would not cooperate with the ICC. He threatened a number of retaliatory steps if the court investigated US citizens or citizens of allied countries, including against court officials and governments cooperating with the ICC. Trump also made critical remarks at the United Nations General Assembly.
“US threats against the ICC are an affront to every victim seeking justice before this court,” said Elizabeth Evenson, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “ICC member countries should demonstrate at their annual meeting their resolve to oppose any effort to undermine the court’s investigations and prosecutions.”
The ICC prosecutor’s request to open an investigation in Afghanistan, which could include crimes committed by Taliban forces and the Afghan government, as well as US military and Central Intelligence Agency personnel, is pending before the court. An ICC investigation in Afghanistan would advance accountability and provide victims with a path to justice, while putting those responsible for serious crimes on notice that they could face prosecution, Human Rights Watch said.
ICC member countries responded to the US threats with strong statements of support for the court. Similar efforts in the past to undermine the court’s work have also been met by firm resistance from members, including a hostile US campaign by the George W. Bush administration.
Given the broader pressure on the international rule of law, it is all the more important for ICC member countries to defend the court’s mandate with clear statements and actions, Human Rights Watch said. ICC members should seize opportunities during the meeting’s general debate in the language of resolutions adopted, in discussions on state cooperation, and at other moments to show their resolve to ensure that the court can do its job.
Members will mark the 20th anniversary of the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, during a dedicated debate at the session, capping a year of anniversary commemorations. They will also discuss victim rights. Governments and court officials should use discussions to address the court’s challenges, including improving court investigations, deepening the court’s impact in affected communities, and securing arrests based on its warrants since the court depends on member countries to make the arrests. On November 17, Alfred Yékatom, known as “Rombhot,” was surrendered to the court in a case arising out of its investigation in the Central African Republic, the second arrest in 2018 for the court. But 17 arrest warrants remain outstanding, at the expense of victims and their families.
“The ICC has struggled to deliver on expectations,” Evenson said. “It’s precisely because the court’s role is so crucial in bringing justice that court officials need to step up their performance and member governments need to increase their support.”
Human Rights Watch issued a briefing note in advance of the session, with recommendations to ICC states parties, including for the election of the court’s next prosecutor. The term of the current prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, expires in June 2021. Early preparations and a strictly merit-based approach to the election is needed, Human Rights Watch said.
Negotiations about the court’s annual budget, with funds provided by its member countries, will be part of the agenda. Some member countries have demanded “zero growth” in the court’s budget, but other countries increasingly have insisted that the court should have the resources it needs to manage its growing workload. During 2018, the ICC prosecutor opened three new preliminary examinations – into the situations in the Philippines, Bangladesh/Myanmar, and Venezuela – and received two referrals from member countries to examine the situations in Palestine and Venezuela.
The ICC is the first permanent global court mandated to bring to justice people responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. It is a court of last resort and has 123 member countries. In addition to the request to open an investigation in Afghanistan, the ICC prosecutor has opened investigations in Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Darfur region of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, and northern Uganda. The prosecutor is also examining allegations of crimes committed in a number of places to determine whether to open investigations. In addition to Venezuela, Bangladesh/Myanmar, and the Philippines, these include Colombia, Guinea, Nigeria, Palestine, Ukraine, and alleged abuses by United Kingdom armed forces in Iraq.
“The court is a crucial yet vulnerable component of the rule-based global order, and has a vital role to play in backstopping victims’ access to justice,” Evenson said. “Members should take every opportunity to make clear that they will provide the support it needs.”

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