Climate justice is a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. This is done by relating the effects of climate change to concepts of justice, particularly environmental justice and social justice and by examining issues such as equality, human rights, collective rights, and the historical responsibilities for climate change. A fundamental proposition of climate justice is that those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences. Occasionally, the term is also used to mean actual legal action on climate change issues.
History of the term’s use
In 2000, at the same time as the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP 6), the first Climate Justice Summit took place in The Hague. This summit aimed to “affirm that climate change is a rights issue” and to “build alliances across states and borders” against climate change and in favor of sustainable development.
The ability of populations to mitigate and adapt to the negative consequences of climate change are shaped by factors such as income, race, class, gender, capital and political representation. As low-income communities and communities of color possess few if any adaptive resources, they are particularly vulnerable to climate change. People living in poverty or in precarious circumstances tend to have neither the resources nor the insurance cover necessary to bounce back from environmental disasters. On top of that, such populations often receive an unequal share of disaster relief and recovery assistance.
Subsequently, in August–September 2002, international environmental groups met in Johannesburg for the Earth Summit. At this summit, also known as Rio+10, as it took place ten years after the 1992 Earth Summit, the Bali Principles of Climate Justice were adopted.
Climate Justice affirms the rights of communities’ dependent on natural resources for their livelihood and cultures to own and manage the same in a sustainable manner, and is opposed to the commodification of nature and its resources.
Bali Principles of Climate Justice, article 18, August 29, 2002 
In 2004, the Durban Group for Climate Justice was formed at an international meeting in Durban, South Africa. Here representatives from NGOs and peoples’ movements discussed realistic policies for addressing climate change.
In 2009, the Climate Justice Action Network was formed during the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit. It proposed civil disobedience and direct action during the summit, and many climate activists used the slogan ‘system change not climate change’.
In April 2010, the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth took place in Tiquipaya, Bolivia. It was hosted by the government of Bolivia as a global gathering of civil society and governments. The conference published a “People’s Agreement” calling, among other things, for greater climate justice.
Developed countries, as the main cause of climate change, in assuming their historical responsibility, must recognize and honor their climate debt in all of its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution to climate change. (…) The focus must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings.
World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, People’s Agreement, April 22, Cochabamba, Bolivia 
Controversial interpretations of climate justice
One contentious issue in debates about climate justice is the extent to which capitalism is viewed as its root cause. This question frequently leads to fundamental disagreements between, on the one hand, liberal and conservative environmental groups and, on the other, leftist and radical organizations. While the former often tend to blame the excesses of neoliberalism for climate change and argue in favor of market-based reform, the latter view capitalism with its exploitative traits as the underlying central issue.
Social justice is the fair and just relation between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.
Social justice assigns rights and duties in the institutions of society, which enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation. The relevant institutions often include taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labour law and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equal opportunity and equality of outcome.
Interpretations that relate justice to a reciprocal relationship to society are mediated by differences in cultural traditions, some of which emphasize the individual responsibility toward society and others the equilibrium between access to power and its responsible use. Hence, social justice is invoked today while reinterpreting historical figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas, in philosophical debates about differences among human beings, in efforts for gender, racial and social equality, for advocating justice for migrants, prisoners, the environment, and the physically and mentally disabled.
While the concept of social justice can be traced through the theology of Augustine of Hippo and the philosophy of Thomas Paine, the term “social justice” became used explicitly from the 1840s. A Jesuit priest named Luigi Taparelli is typically credited with coining the term, and it spread during the revolutions of 1848 with the work of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati. In the late industrial revolution, progressive American legal scholars began to use the term more, particularly Louis Brandeis and Roscoe Pound. From the early 20th century it was also embedded in international law and institutions; the preamble to establish the International Labour Organization recalled that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” In the later 20th century, social justice was made central to the philosophy of the social contract, primarily by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice (1971). In 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action treats social justice as a purpose of the human rights education.
Environmental justice emerged as a concept in the United States in the early 1980s. The term has two distinct uses. The first and more common usage describes a social movement whose focus is on the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. Second, it is an interdisciplinary body of social science literature that includes theories of the environment, theories of justice, environmental law and governance, environmental policy and planning, development, sustainability, and political ecology.
Welcome to the website of the Climate Law Database, an initiative of the Climate Justice Programme.
On this site you can find information and documents on many of the legal initiatives that have been brought under various legal theories in national and international forums.
Climate change impacts are already affecting people and the planet. And the science shows it will get far, far worse. The biggest impacts will be on the lives and livelihoods of the poor and developing countries, especially small island states. The biggest culprits are the rich and the developed countries.
Progress has been made: we have international agreements; more resources for scientific research, leading to stronger evidence; some policy advances; a change in industry rhetoric; and a certain increase in public awareness. But all this falls far short of what is needed. At the heart of the problem is the production and use of fossil fuel; and the continuing problems of deforestation and land degradation.
There are laws in place now that can address this. Many kinds of legal action have been taken around the world to enforce the law to combat climate change. A range of national and international legal theories have been invoked by dozens of different organisations, communities and individuals, such as human rights law, constitutional law, emission control regulation, endangered species protection, freedom of information and international legal obligations. Judgments and administrative decisions have begun to come through.
The Climate Justice Programme seeks to encourage enforcement of the law to combat climate change and on this website we aim to provide information and materials on the legal actions we are aware of, and on other aspects of climate change law.
The Climate Justice Programme (CJP) is an independent not for profit, non-government organisation that uses the law to expose environmental and human rights issues relating to climate change.
We are a group of lawyers, academics and campaigners who support the development and execution of strategic initiatives to address global climate change. We seek to raise awareness and engagement in climate law through long standing global networks of lawyers and international organisations.
The CJP is the only program globally that has been established with the sole purpose to work collaboratively with lawyers, campaigners and scientists in this innovative field.
The CJP does not accept funding, gifts or donations from any major greenhouse gas emitters or producers.
“Climate change litigation has proved to be a vehicle through which matters that are important to communities are being brought to the attention of governments and, hence, act as a catalyst for executive action.”
Justice Brian Preston, Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court, Australia
We are dedicated to the pursuit of climate justice, through the development of climate law.
We advocate for the protection of the environment through seeking to reduce the impact of and mitigate the risk of climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, through policy and legislative reform and strategic litigation, education and professional development.
To use the law to protect the natural environment and people from the adverse impacts of climate change.
- Climate justice;
- Social justice;
- Human rights;
- Creativity, innovation and excellence;
- Working in partnership;
- Inclusiveness, respect and self-determination;
- Leading by example;
- Social responsibility as an organisation;
- Environmental sustainability;
- Diversity and equality;
- Respect for Indigenous peoples.
The Importance of a Human-Rights Perspective
The CJP is calling for a human rights approach to climate change. We are also calling for the development of a right to a safe climate: one that recognises the inter-connectedness of such a right with other rights and the importance of inter-generational equity to the essence of such a right.
Climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to human rights across the globe. The world’s poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. There is a growing momentum around enforcing legal responsibilities and obligations to prevent and minimise the impacts of climate change upon human lives and human rights.
While there is no recognition of a right to a safe climate at international law there has been some recognition of a right to an adequate environment. For example Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention states:
“In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.”
A number of existing human rights rely on a safe climate for their complete realisation. These include many civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. For example rights to life, health, adequate standard of living, property, self-determination and just and favourable conditions of work all may rely on conditions of a safe climate.
Human rights are too often equated with “moral” questions and a common theme of government bureaucrats in consultations with non-government organisations has been the urging of NGOs to frame climate policy in economic not moral concerns.
Nevertheless it is our view that a human rights framework is essential for understanding the urgency of acting on climate change and is necessary to communicate fully the impact climate change will have on people in Australia and around the world.
In response to climate change, human rights requires a triple task to be performed by governments, namely to:
- avoid harmful emissions nationally in order to respect the right to live in freedom from human-induced climate perturbations;
- protect human rights against third-party emissions of countries or corporations through international cooperation; and
- fulfil human rights obligations by upgrading people’s capability to cope with climate change through adaptation measures, such as dam building, resettlement, or land redistribution.
In this case an individual and community in the Niger Delta filed a case in the Federal High Court of Nigeria against Shell and other major oil companies to stop gas flaring. Gas flaring in Nigeria has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined, as well as poisoning local communities. The court held that the gas flaring was a gross violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and dignity. This is the first time that a Nigerian court has applied the rights to life and dignity in an environmental case.
The Arctic Inuit filed a petition arguing that the impacts of climate change in the Arctic infringe upon the environmental, subsistence, and other human rights of Inuit. The Inuit sought a ruling from the Commission that the US must adopt mandatory limits on greenhouse gases and “…help the Inuit adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change.” The Inuit relied on the breach of the following rights set out in the American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man: the right to life (Art. 1), the right to residence and movement (Art. VIII), the right to inviolability of the home (Art. IX), the right to preservation of health and to well-being (Art. XI), the rights to benefits of culture (Art. XIII) and the right to work and to fair remuneration (Art. XIV). The Commission technically dismissed the Petition in December 2006. A hearing was however held in March 2007. No hearing report appears to have been published.
The climate is changing, human activities are contributing to this and the impacts are already being felt by people, plants and animals across the globe1. However the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed. The poorest countries and the most vulnerable people within them, particularly those whose economies are dependent on agriculture, will be most affected despite having contributed least to climate change. It is this unfair situation that has led to calls from NGOs and developing countries for climate justice.
Justice is generally understood to mean that which is right, fair, appropriate or deserved, with justice being achieved when an unjust act is redressed. Within the context of climate change this means that the poorest countries and people should be supported by those who have contributed most to climate change. As a fairly new concept there are multiple definitions of climate justice. One that is used by the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice states that ‘climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly’.
Essentially, climate justice means trying to ensure that people and the planet are treated fairly in the ways in which we: a) try to reduce further climate changes, for example by cutting down the amount of fossil fuels we burn to produce energy (known as mitigation); and b) adapt to the changes we have brought about in the climate, for example by developing crops that are resistant to droughts where rainfall levels have dropped as a result of climate change (known as adaptation).
1IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007. Available online at: www.ipcc.ch/ publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/contents.html
International Climate Justice Tribunal
Objectives of the group in terms of debate and product:
– Assess whether an International Climate Justice Tribunal or alternatively an International Environmental Court is necessary or appropriate as a means to enforce states’ commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
– Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the existing environmental tribunals.
– Agree on the creation of an international mechanism that can legally enforce the commitment of countries to comply with their responsibilities to humanity and to nature, including the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Agree on a strategy toward establishing such mechanism under the UN framework.
– Is an International Climate Justice Tribunal necessary or appropriate?
– Should the tribunal’s jurisdiction be limited to enforcing commitments under the UNFCCC or should it also have the authority to enforce other multilateral environmental treaties? Alternatively, should its jurisdiction be limited to serious crimes against nature that are considered equivalent to a violation of human rights?
– Should the tribunal have universal jurisdiction or territorial jurisdiction, limiting jurisdiction to those crimes committed by a national of a state party or on the territory of a state party?
– Should the tribunal follow the complementarity principle of the ICC whereby the case may only be brought to the international tribunal if the state party is unwilling or unable to try the crime in a domestic court?
– Who should be able to bring complaints? Only states, or also non-state actors such as individuals, companies, and NGOs? If only states, then should non-state actors be allowed to express their opinion on a particular dispute?
– Should the tribunal set up an independent commission or public prosecutor, linked to a UN organization such as UNEP, to trigger procedures against a particular state or number of states?
– Should the tribunal be constituted as a UN body, or should it be an independent body?
– How should the tribunal be composed and who should decide its composition?
– How should the tribunal be financed?
– What relief can the tribunal grant and how should its decisions be enforced?
– Under international law, States have an obligation to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control respect the environment of other States and areas beyond national control. This obligation is contained in many of the present international environmental treaties.
– Unfortunately, many of these international environmental treaties lack the mechanisms to enforce state party obligations.
– The UNFCCC contains no mechanisms for trying or sanctioning countries that fail to comply with their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
– The polluter and user of natural resources should be held accountable for the environmental harm caused by their activities.
– The scale of legal responses must correspond to the scale of the problem.
Precedents: existing legal enforcement mechanisms of International Environmental Law
Various tribunals and dispute resolution mechanisms currently exist to solve international environmental disputes. Below is a list of the most relevant mechanisms: International Court of Justice (ICJ)
o The ICJ is the judicial arm of the United Nations and the only international court with universal jurisdiction. All UN member states may bring a case for all subject matters involving a dispute between states. However, both states must agree to its jurisdiction ex ante or ad hoc.
o Non-state actors can be neither complainant nor defendant. However, states may take up the case of an individual before the ICJ.
o The role of the ICJ is to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
o In 1993, the ICJ appointed a Chamber for Environmental Matters, composed of 7 of the 15 ICJ judges. Use of the Chamber requires the agreement of both parties and the ICJ can appoint assessors and scientific experts to assist with scientific questions related to the environment. The Chamber has yet to be used.
o Some decisions and advisory opinions relating to the environment include the Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, ICJ Reports 1996, and Judgment in the case Concerning Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v. Slovakia), ICJ Reports 1997, on the Danube Dam Project.
o Under the UNFCCC, Art. 14, a State Party may submit their disputes to the ICJ.
o In 2002, the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu contemplated suing the United States in the ICJ for its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It decided not to do so after recognizing the difficulties of winning such a case.
Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
o The PCA is neither a standing court nor a judicial organ. It is an arbitration body whose dispute resolution rules are based closely on the 1976 UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration Rules and the 1980 UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules. The PCA has 110 member states.
o The PCA is independent from any environmental organizations and conventions.
o In 2001, member states adopted the Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Natural Resources and/or the Environment. They can be used by and against states, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, multinational corporations, and private parties, as long as the parties agree that their dispute would be referred to arbitration under the Optional Rules. The Rules are based on UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules but also allow for the participation of environmental experts. PCA has handled several environmental cases including disputes under the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
o Under the UNFCCC, Art. 14, State Parties may arbitrate in accordance with procedures adopted by the PCA.
World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement system
o Where parties fail to seek a consensus solution, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) establishes a panel to hear the dispute. If a measure is found to be inconsistent with WTO obligations, the member has to comply with the ruling and the recommendations, typically by removing the offending measure.
o The DSB can impose retaliatory trade sanctions for non-compliance.
o Environmental disputes have included the Shrimp-Turtle Case (1998) and Beef-Hormones case.
UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
o UNCLOS, which governs virtually all aspects of the law of the sea, provide a range of dispute settlement mechanisms in Part XV, some of which are compulsory and binding.
o Where parties fail to reach a consensus, they are obligated to settle the dispute through the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the ICJ, or an arbitral tribunal.
o Environmental disputes have included the Southern Bluefin Tuna case.
o Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
– In 2005, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) submitted a petition to the Commission seeking relief from violations of the human rights of Inuit resulting from global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the United States. The petition urged the Commission to recommend that the United States adopt mandatory limits to its emissions of greenhouse gases and co-operate with the community of nations to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The petition also requested the Commission to declare that the United States has an obligation to work with Inuit to develop a plan to help Inuit adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change, and to take into account the impact of its emissions on the Arctic and Inuit before approving all major government actions. The Petition was dismissed for insufficient evidence of harm.
o African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
o European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
o Court of Justice of the European Community (ECJ)
Ethical Opinion Tribunals
o Permanent People’s Tribunal
o Latin American Water Tribunal
– Establishment of an International Environmental Court
o The idea of an International Environment Court (IEC) was first proposed in 1989, at the conference of the National Academy of Lincei in Rome. A draft Statute of the International Environmental Agency and the International Court of the Environment was presented at the UNCED Conference in Rio in 1992. See http://www.icef-court.org/base.asp?co_id=51.
o More recently, an IEC has been promoted by the UK group ICE Coalition, advocating for the creation of an environmental court molded on the ICJ, which will be able to enforce binding targets, enforce the right to a healthy environment, and “fine countries or companies that fail to protect endangered species or degrade the natural environment”.
o The risks associated with creating an entirely new tribunal is the potential for overlapping jurisdiction with existing international tribunals and the lack of financial resources to ensure an effective institution.
– Establishment of an International Climate Justice Tribunal
o In October of 2009, a preliminary hearing of the International Climate Justice Tribunal was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to hear seven cases regarding the impact of climate change and the violation of communities’, peoples’ and Mother Earth’s rights. The tribunal is a response to the absence of mechanisms and institutions that sanction crimes related to climate change. It originates from organized civil society rather than the State, and its rulings seek to have moral, ethical, and political implications. The tribunal aims to construct the necessary force to convince governments and multilateral entities to assume their responsibities with regard to equity and justice.
o In October of 2009, climate justice tribunals were also held in other parts of the world, including the Asian People’s Climate Tribunal in Bangkok, where the aim was to examine the culpability of developed countries for global warming and claim damages for the hardships inflicted on the people of Asia.
– Reform of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
o The newly established environmental chamber could be used to enforce environmental obligations; however the ICJ has limited enforcement powers due to need for parties to agree to its exercise of jurisdiction and the lack of monitoring authority to ensure compliance with the decisions.
o The ICJ statute could be reformed in order to strengthen its enforcement powers.
– Reform of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
o The ICC allows the prosecution of individuals for the commission of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community: the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
o The jurisdiction of the ICC could be expanded to cover environmental crimes.
o However, critiques have noted that the inclusion of environmental crimes might water down the seriousness of other human rights violations. Nor does the ICC have particular expertise in international environmental law.
The peoples of the world have gathered at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, from 19 to 22 April, 2010. We, the Working Group of the Tribunal for Climate Justice, have made the following conclusions: Read the rest of this entry »
As Indigenous Organizations and social movements we have met in the context of the PRE CONFERENCE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS, held in the city of Cochabamba from the 29th and to the 30th of March 2010, and we have constituted as the Working Group Nº 5 of Climate Justice Tribunal.
The case for the Environmental Court:
Dear activists, esteemed delegates, panelists and participants,
”The promotion, development and determination of international Environmental Law is based on the recognition that the principal causes and effects of the world’s major environmental problems are international in nature and so require solutions which are also international and based on an equitable sense of Justice for all.
Environmental Cooperation among the nations of this earth and the multinational institutions, can only be achieved if there is an inherent Justice in the centre of any response and a high regard for human rights as the overriding concern and main principle of the global response to Climate Change.”
Pano Kroko. Chairman – Environmental Parliament Read the rest of this entry »
Objectives of the group in terms of debate and product:
– Assess whether an International Climate Justice Tribunal or alternatively an International Environmental Court is necessary or appropriate as a means to enforce states’ commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read the rest of this entry »
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change contains no mechanisms for trying or sanctioning developed countries that fail to comply with their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, President Evo Morales has proposed the creation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal at the United Nations.
Is an International Climate Justice Tribunal necessary? What should be its characteristics? What is the path toward establishing it under UN framework? This working group will analyze and develop a proposal for the creation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
30 June-18 July 2008
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
- The Committee considered the sixth periodic report of Nigeria (CEDAW/C/NGA/6) at its 836th and 837th meetings, on 3 July 2008 (see CEDAW/C/SR.836 and CEDAW/C/SR.837). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/NGA/Q/6 and the responses of Nigeria are contained in CEDAW/C/NGA/Q/6/Add.1.
The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its sixth periodic report, which follows the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports and takes into account the Committee’s previous concluding observations. The Committee notes with appreciation the participatory process by which the report was prepared, including the holding of public consultations and the involvement of civil society organizations.
The Committee also expresses its appreciation to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group and for the oral presentation and further clarifications offered in response to the questions posed by the Committee.
The Committee commends the State party for its large delegation headed by the Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development, which included representatives of various Government ministries, departments and agencies, members of the National Assembly, as well as representatives from civil society. The Committee appreciates the open and constructive dialogue that took place between the delegation and members of the Committee.
The Committee notes with appreciation that the State party ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention in November 2004.
The Committee welcomes the adoption of the National Gender Policy in 2007, which constitutes a comprehensive framework for promoting gender equality and the advancement of women. The Committee encourages the State party to take the necessary measures to ensure its full implementation and operationalization. The Committee also welcomes the adoption of a number of strategies, policies and programmes on areas such as education, health, reproductive health and nutrition since the consideration of Nigeria’s combined fourth and fifth periodic report in 2004.
The Committee notes with appreciation the close collaboration of the State party with non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups in the promotion of women’s human rights and gender equality, including through consultations, membership in task forces or committees, and contribution to legislative processes. The Committee encourages the Government to further develop such collaboration.
The Committee commends the State party on its ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
While taking cognizance of Nigeria’s federal structure, which establishes a three-tiered system of governance at the national, state and local levels, the Committee underlines that principal responsibility for implementation of the Convention lies with the federal government and calls upon the State party to undertake all necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the Convention in a consistent and coherent manner across its territory.
While recalling the obligation of the State party to implement all the provisions of the Convention systematically and continuously, the Committee views the concerns and recommendations identified in the present concluding observations as requiring the priority attention of the State party. Consequently, the Committee calls on the State party to focus on those areas in its implementation activities and to report on action taken and results achieved in its next periodic report. It also calls on the State party to submit the present concluding observations to all relevant ministries, to the National and State Assemblies and the judiciary in order to ensure their effective implementation.
Noting the rejection by the National Assembly of a 2005 draft bill on full domestication of the Convention, the Committee expresses its concern that the Convention has yet to be domesticated as part of national law despite its ratification in 1985 without any reservations. As expressed in its previous concluding observations of 2004, the Committee is concerned that without such domestication, the Convention is not a part of the national legal framework and its provisions are not justiciable and enforceable in Nigerian courts.
The Committee recalls its previous recommendation and urges the State party to place high priority on completing the process of full domestication of the Convention. It calls on the State party to intensify its efforts to ensure the passage of the draft bill on domestication of the Convention, including through the holding of consultations with government officials, political leaders and members of the National Assembly, civil society organizations, and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to raising awareness and broadening understanding of the Convention, as well as building support for the draft bill.
The Committee welcomes efforts undertaken by the State party in the area of legal reform, such as the publication of a study compiling all national, state and local laws, policies and practices relating to the status of women and children and the establishment of a Committee on Reform of Discriminatory Laws against Women. The Committee expresses serious concern, however, at discriminatory provisions in the Constitution, including Section 26(2), which does not allow a Nigerian woman to transmit her nationality to her foreign spouse on the same basis as a Nigerian man. The Committee also expresses serious concern at other discriminatory laws at both the federal and state levels, including those that allow wife battery as chastisement as long as grievous harm is not inflicted (Section 55 of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria), prohibit women from working at night in certain sectors of employment (Section 55 of Chapter 198 of the 1990 Labour Act of Nigeria), and classify sexual assault against female victims as a misdemeanour (Section 360 of the Criminal Code). Further, the Committee notes that a draft bill on “Abolition of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Nigeria and Other Related Matters” was not approved by the National Assembly.
In line with its previous recommendation of 2004, the Committee calls on the State party to set a concrete timetable for amending all provisions in the Constitution and in federal and state legislation that discriminate against women. The Committee also urges the State party to accelerate and expand its efforts at legislative reform, including with respect to the laws identified in the above-mentioned study. It recommends that the State party also repeal Section 55 of the Penal Code of Northern Nigeria, Section 55 of Chapter 198 of the 1990 Labour Act of Nigeria and Section 360 of the Criminal Code, and ensure that those responsible for the implementation of these laws and policies are made aware of their discriminatory contents. The Committee also recommends that awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns be developed and implemented, involving parliamentarians, civil society and the general public, including religious and traditional leaders, in order to enhance understanding of the provisions of the Convention and support for the principle of gender equality and the prohibition of discrimination. It further calls on the State party to ensure that the Convention and related domestic legislation are made an integral part of legal education and the training of judicial officers, including judges, lawyers and prosecutors, so as to firmly establish in the country a legal culture supportive of women’s equality and non-discrimination.
While welcoming the adoption by 18 states of the Child Rights Act, which sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, the Committee notes with concern Section 29(4) of the Constitution, which states that a woman is deemed to be of full age upon marriage thereby lending support to early marriages.
The Committee urges the State party to repeal without delay Section 29(4) of the Constitution. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that those states that have not yet done so adopt the Child Rights Act without delay and ensure its effective implementation.
The Committee expresses concern at contradictions and inconsistencies created by the application of statutory, customary and sharia laws in the State party’s tripartite legal system, particularly in the areas of marriage and family law. It also notes with concern the existence of discriminatory provisions within these sources of law with regard to marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance. Recalling its previous concluding observations of 2004, the Committee reiterates that the tripartite legal system results in a lack of compliance by the State party with its obligations under the Convention and leads to continuing discrimination against women.
While noting the ongoing process of review of family laws by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission, the Committee urges the State party to accelerate and expand its efforts towards the harmonization of marriage and family laws in line with articles 2 and 16 of the Convention. The Committee requests the State party to report on the progress as well as outcomes achieved with regard to the above-mentioned process of review in its next periodic report.The Committee is concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes concerning women’s roles and responsibilities that discriminate against women and perpetuate their subordination within the family and society. It notes that such discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes constitute serious obstacles to women’s enjoyment of their human rights and the fulfilment of the rights enshrined in the Convention. The Committee is thus concerned by the lack of information in the State party’s report on the measures taken and programmes or strategies in place to combat and address such discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes. The Committee also expresses serious concern about the persistence of entrenched harmful traditional and cultural norms and practices, including widowhood rites and practices.
In line with its previous recommendation of 2004, the Committee urges the State party to continue to take measures, including the enactment of national legislation, to modify or eliminate traditional and cultural practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women in accordance with articles 2(f) and 5(a) of the Convention. It urges the State party to intensify cooperation in this regard with civil society organizations, women’s groups and community leaders, traditional and religious leaders, as well as teachers and the media. The Committee invites the State party to increase its efforts to design and implement long-term strategies, as well as education and awareness-raising programmes targeting women and men at all levels of society, with a view to creating an enabling environment for the elimination of stereotypes and practices that are discriminatory to women and allowing women to exercise their fundamental rights. It further calls on the State party to periodically review the measures taken in order to assess their impact, to take appropriate action and to report thereon to the Committee in its next report.
The Committee notes the continued high incidence of female genital mutilation in some areas of the country. It also notes with concern the absence of national legislation prohibiting this harmful traditional practice.
The Committee urges the State party to enact national legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation, including penalties for perpetrators, remedies and support for victims, with a view to eliminating this harmful practice. The Committee invites the State party to increase its efforts to design and implement long-term strategies, as well as education and awareness-raising programmes involving traditional and religious leaders, women’s organizations and the general public.
The Committee is concerned about the continuing prevalence of violence against women, including domestic violence. The Committee is also concerned by the absence of a comprehensive national law on violence against women and notes that a number of draft bills, such as the 2006 bill on “Elimination of Violence in Society” and the 2003 bill on “Violence against women”, remain pending before the National Assembly. While acknowledging the efforts made by the State party to address the issue, including awareness-raising measures, training programmes and the provision of support services to victims, the Committee remains concerned about the absence of a comprehensive national strategy and programme to combat all forms of violence against women. The Committee also notes with concern that the majority of services for victims, including shelters, are provided by non‑governmental organizations with limited support, including financial support, by the State party.
The Committee urges the State party to accord priority attention to the adoption of comprehensive measures to address violence against women and girls in accordance with its general recommendation 19 on violence against women. The Committee calls on the State party to enact comprehensive legislation on all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, as soon as possible. Such legislation should ensure that all forms of violence against women constitute a criminal offence, that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. The Committee recommends the expansion of training activities and programmes for parliamentarians, the judiciary and public officials, particularly law enforcement personnel and for health-service providers, so as to ensure that they are sensitized to all forms of violence against women and can provide adequate support to victims. It further recommends the expansion of public awareness-raising campaigns on all forms of violence against women. The Committee also recommends the establishment of additional counselling and other support services for victims of violence, including shelters, and requests the State party to enhance its cooperation with and support for non‑governmental organizations working in the area of violence against women. The Committee requests the State party to provide information in its next report on the laws and programmes in place to deal with violence against women and on the impact of such measures, as well as data and trends on the prevalence of various forms of violence.
While acknowledging the measures taken by the State party to combat trafficking in women and children, including the adoption of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act of 2003, as amended in 2005, the establishment of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and the various cooperation agreements reached with other countries, the Committee is concerned by the continuing prevalence and extent of this problem.
The Committee urges the State party to ensure the full implementation of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, including the prosecution and punishment of offenders. The Committee also urges the State party to give priority attention to the protection, including witness protection, counselling and rehabilitation of victims, especially girl children. The Committee calls on the State party to enhance measures aimed at the prevention of trafficking, including economic measures to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls, as well as awareness-raising and information campaigns, particularly in communities most at risk. The Committee also calls on the State party to intensify international, regional and bilateral cooperation with other countries of origin, transit and destination of trafficked women and girls.
Recalling its previous concluding observations of 2004, and while noting the efforts made to increase the number of women in both elective and appointed positions in public office, in the diplomatic service and in international organizations, the Committee is concerned that women continue to be seriously underrepresented in political and public life, especially in leadership and decision-making positions. The Committee notes that women’s representation in the National Assembly currently stands at 6.9 per cent in the House of Representatives and 8.3 per cent in the Senate, far below the 35 per cent minimum representation stipulated in the National Gender Policy.
Recalling its previous recommendation, the Committee calls on the State party to take measures, with benchmarks and concrete timetables, to increase the number of women in political and public life, at all levels and in all areas, in light of its general recommendation 23 on women in political and public life. It also recommends that the State party introduce temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and general recommendation 25, to strengthen its efforts to promote women to positions of leadership. To that end, the Committee urges the State party to increase the availability of training and capacity-building programmes for women wishing to enter or already in public office and to enhance its awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of women’s participation in political and public life.
Recalling its previous concluding observations of 2004, the Committee notes with concern the persisting wage gap between men and women, women’s higher unemployment rate, and women’s concentration in certain sectors, namely agriculture, animal husbandry, and service. The Committee also notes that women are predominantly employed in the informal sector resulting in their exclusion from formal social security programmes. The Committee expresses concern about the persistence of discriminatory legislation, administrative regulations and practices in the labour market. Specific reference is made in this regard to provisions of the Labour Act, which prohibit the employment of women in night work and in work underground, the Factories Act, which does not recognize the specific health and reproductive needs of women, the Nigerian Police Regulations, which prohibit the enlistment of married women and require women officers to request permission to marry in writing. The Committee also notes with concern discriminatory practices in the private sector, particularly in the banking sector, with respect to maternity and marital status. The Committee further notes the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and the absence of legislation and measures to address this.
The Committee recommends the adoption of measures to guarantee the implementation of all the provisions of article 11 of the Convention and the implementation of the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization that have been ratified by Nigeria. The Committee urges the State party to ensure equal opportunities for women and men in the labour market, including through the use of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1 of the Convention and general recommendation 25. It also recommends that the State party pay particular attention to the conditions of women workers in the informal sector with a view to ensuring their access to social services. The Committee urges the State party to review, as a matter of priority, discriminatory laws and regulations with a view to their repeal or amendment in accordance with article 11 of the Convention. The Committee also urges the State party to enact legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, including sanctions, civil remedies and compensation for victims. The Committee further urges the State party to establish an effective monitoring and regulatory mechanism on employment issues and practices in the private sector. Taking note of the existence of a draft Labour Standards Bill, which, inter alia, prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation and guarantees the right to equal remuneration for work of equal value, the Committee requests the State party to include detailed information on the content, implementation and enforcement of such standards in its next periodic report.
While commending the State party for the measures taken to strengthen the national health system, including the recent approval by the National Assembly of the National Health Bill, as well as the adoption of policies and programmes to address various health challenges, the Committee reiterates its serious concern at the precarious situation of women’s health, as well as the insufficient number and inadequate health-care facilities, particularly in rural areas. The Committee notes that responsibility for the provision of health services is currently divided across the three tiers of government, with local governments responsible for the primary health-care system. It notes with concern that primary health-care services and facilities are often inadequate in quality, number and funding. The Committee also expresses concern about the high rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS affecting women and girls in the country.
The Committee urges the State party to continue its efforts to improve the country’s health infrastructure, particularly at the primary level, and to integrate a gender perspective into all health sector reforms. It also urges the State party to improve women’s access to quality and affordable health-care and health-related services, particularly at the primary level and in rural areas. It further urges the State party to introduce a holistic and life cycle approach to women’s health, taking into account its general recommendation 24 on women and health. The Committee calls on the State party to ensure the full implementation of policies and programmes to prevent and combat malaria and HIV/AIDS. It further calls upon the State party to implement awareness-raising campaigns to enhance women’s knowledge of health issues, with special attention paid to the prevention and control of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
The Committee is especially concerned at the very high maternal mortality rate, the second highest in the world, and regrets that there has been no progress in reducing the maternal mortality rate since the consideration of the State party’s combined fourth and fifth periodic report in 2004. The Committee also notes the various contributing factors, such as unsafe abortions and inadequate post-abortion care, early and child marriages, early pregnancies, high fertility rates and inadequate family planning services, the low rates of contraceptive usage leading to unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and the lack of sex education, especially in rural areas. The Committee expresses concern about the lack of access by women and girls to adequate health-care services, including pre-natal and post-natal care, obstetric services and family planning information, particularly in rural areas.
The Committee urges the State party to address, as a matter of priority, the high maternal mortality rate, including the allocation of adequate resources to increase women’s access to affordable health services, particularly pre-natal, post-natal and obstetric services, as well as other medical and emergency assistance provided by trained personnel, particularly in rural areas. It calls upon the State party to improve the availability and affordability of sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning information and services. It recommends the adoption of measures to increase knowledge of, and access to, affordable contraceptive methods, so that women and men can make informed choices about the number and spacing of children. It also calls upon the State party to assess the impact of its abortion law on the maternal mortality rate and to give consideration to its reform or modification. It further calls upon the State party to implement awareness-raising campaigns to enhance women’s knowledge of reproductive health issues and recommends that sex education be widely promoted and targeted at adolescent girls and boys. The Committee requests that the State party provide detailed information on the measures taken to reduce the maternal mortality rate, as well as their impact, in its next periodic report to the Committee.
While taking note of the State party’s comprehensive development and poverty reduction strategies implemented at the national, state and local levels, as well as initiatives to address women’s economic empowerment, such as the Women’s Fund for Economic Empowerment and the Business Development Fund for Women, the Committee is concerned that widespread poverty among women, particularly rural women and women head of households, as well as poor socio-economic conditions are among the causes of the violation of women’s human rights and discrimination against women. It notes with concern that discriminatory practices with regard to land ownership, administration of property and inheritance, limit women’s access to economic resources, as well as credit and loan facilities. The Committee is especially concerned about the situation of rural women, particularly in view of their precarious living conditions and lack of access to justice, health care, education, credit facilities, economic opportunities and community services.
The Committee urges the State party to ensure that the promotion of gender equality is an explicit component of its national, state and local development plans and programmes, in particular those aimed at poverty reduction and sustainable development. The Committee also urges the State party to pay special attention to the needs of rural women and women head of households, ensuring that they participate in decision-making processes and have full access to credit facilities. The Committee further urges the State party to ensure that rural women have access to health services, education, clean water, electricity, land, and income-generating projects. It recommends that the State party design and implement gender-sensitive rural development strategies and programmes, ensuring the full participation of rural women in their formulation and implementation.
The Committee expresses concern about the situation of internally-displaced women, including women with disabilities, displaced by violence and conflict, particularly in view of their precarious living conditions in camps where they are at increased risk of sexual and other forms of violence, and lack access to health care, education and economic opportunities.The Committee requests the State party to pay particular attention to the needs of internally-displaced women, including women with disabilities, through the adoption of a national policy on displacement in line with Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820, and the formulation and implementation of gender-sensitive plans and programmes for social re-integration, capacity-building and training of internally-displaced persons. It also recommends that the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender and Peacekeeping pay particular attention to the situation of internally-displaced women. The Committee also requests the State party to ensure the protection of internally-displaced women from violence and their access to immediate means of redress.
The Committee encourages the State party to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
The Committee urges the State party to utilize fully, in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
The Committee also emphasizes that full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
The Committee notes that States’ adherence to the nine major international human rights instruments enhances the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. Therefore, the Committee encourages the Government of Nigeria to ratify the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Nigeria of the present concluding observations in order to make the people, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the measures that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in this regard. In particular, the Committee encourages the State party to convene a public forum involving all State actors and civil society to discuss the presentation of the report and the content of the concluding observations. It requests the State party to continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
[Follow-up to concluding observations]
[44. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, detailed written information on the implementation of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 12, 14, 16 and 34 above.]
Date of next report
The Committee requests the State party to respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding observations in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit its seventh periodic report, which is due in July 2010, and its eighth periodic report, which is due in July 2014, in a combined report in 2014.
 The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
HUMAN RIGHTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
There is no longer any question: climate change is a human rights issue. Rising seas threaten the residents of small island nations. Melting glaciers affect freshwater resources in South American and Himalayan communities, while intruding seas contaminate groundwater in coastal and low-lying communities. Melting snow and ice threaten the food and security of Arctic peoples.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Human Rights Council, and others recognize that climate change is not only an environmental but also a human rights issue for those experiencing these devastating impacts. To prevent further harm, the UNFCCC has explicitly recognized (but not yet operationalized) the need to protect human rights in all climate action.
The Human Rights & Climate Change Working Group engages in the following ways:
- Within the UNFCCC, we advocate for human rights in the development, implementation and monitoring of the climate policies, institutions and mechanisms established under the UNFCCC.
- Within Other International Processes, including the post-2015 agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights Council. We advance the linkages between human rights and climate change.
- At the National and Regional Levels, we provide technical support with respect to the implementation of rights-based policies and actions on the ground.
- At the Community Level, we help to build capacity and provide support to peoples and communities seeking to hold state and corporate actors accountable for the adverse impacts of climate policies and actions.
The Human Rights and Climate Change Working Group and our partners (including the Accra Caucus, Geneva Group, Indigenous Peoples Caucus, REDD+ Safeguards Working Group, and the Women and Gender Constituency) have prepared submissions, analyses, interventions and publications on a wide range of issues related to the human rights dimensions of climate change.
Browse our work on institutional processes at the UNFCCC and UN Human Rights Council, and on specific issues, including: Ambition, Finance, Land Use, Public Participation, REDD+, Safeguards and Accountability, and Women and Gender
The failure to increase ambition (in other words, take necessary action to mitigate climate change) will significantly impact the rights of vulnerable peoples and communities around the world. To minimize future losses and damages, in Paris, the Parties to the UNFCCC agreed to limit the rise of “global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius” while aiming to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, despite this internationally agreed (and adopted) goal, countries have made national commitments to reduce emissions that – even if met – are inadequate to prevent dangerous climate change.
The international community has a critical opportunity between now and 2020 to show much-needed leadership, and to fulfill their obligations to protect those most vulnerable to but least responsible for climate change.
As the international community becomes more serious about addressing climate change, there has been increased attention put on the financial resources needed to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change (climate finance). The governance and distribution of climate finance have implications for the full range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, housing, and culture, among others. A human rights-based approach to climate finance will help to ensure that countries avoid or minimize the human rights impacts of mitigation and adaptation measures, and to promote sustainable and equitable low-carbon development.
Measures that reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change affect the lives, livelihoods and cultures of peoples and communities, and thus have implications for the full and effective enjoyment of human rights. Adaptation measures, such as construction of sea walls, relocation of populations from flood-prone areas, improved water management, and early warning systems, could have both positive and negative effects on the rights to life, health, food, water, and housing, among others.
The Adaptation Fund Board has made a commitment to ensure that all Adaptation Fund projects and programmes respect and protect human rights. The overall policy is consistent with the Paris Agreement and the underlying human rights obligations, which require countries to respect human rights when taking action to address climate change.
Clean Development Mechanism
Established under the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, the Clean Development Mechanism is the most prominent market-based mechanism that involves emissions trading between developed and developing countries. The CDM allows developed countries – specifically those included in Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol – to reduce their overall emissions more cost-effectively in developing countries than at home.
Current CDM rules and procedures contain some tools that help promote a rights-based approach, such as various channels for public participation. However, the CDM has yet to fully adopt a rights-based approach to ensure that its operations contribute to sustainable development, including respect for human rights.
Filzmoser, Voigt, Trunk, Olsen and Jegede, The Need for a Rights-Based Approach to the Clean Development Mechanism
Green Climate Fund
At the UN climate negotiations in 2010, governments created the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a public institution to channel the billions of dollars needed to support developing countries in tackling climate change. If it is properly funded and strong human rights and environmental protections are applied, the Green Climate Fund has enormous potential to have truly transformative impact. While the Fund continues to struggle to mobilize the money needed, the Board continues to design the rules and procedures for how the Fund will operate.
Needed are safeguards, accountability, and public participation, each of which are critical to protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected by mitigation and adaptation activities. All too often, activities that are intended to solve one problem (climate change) result in other problems, threatening the human rights of those who stand their path.
Maintaining and enhancing the integrity and resilience of ecosystems is critical for the long-term effectiveness of climate mitigation and adaptation. Healthy ecosystems sequester and store carbon, while providing a natural defense against climatic hazards such as floods, sea-level rise and drought, and supporting the livelihoods and welfare of billions of people. When they are destroyed or degraded, ecosystems become a source of emissions, and their ability to enable people and other species to adapt is compromised. Actions taken to maintain or enhance ecosystem health, integrity and resilience will help countries to achieve their mitigation and adaptation objectives and to avoid ill-conceived climate responses that perversely undermine progress towards these objectives.
Similarly, respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling rights is fundamental to long-term success of climate actions. For example, with respect to the right to participation, mitigation and adaptation actions must be based on – and will benefit from – full and effective participation of those directly affected, including vulnerable and marginalized groups. Linking ecosystem integrity to a rights-based approach recognizes the intrinsic connections between these principles and adopting a holistic approach to climate actions can in turn maximize social, environmental and economic objectives.
Focusing solely on reducing GHG emissions may lead to disastrous unintended consequences for ecosystems and people, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The IPCC recognizes the threat that certain mitigation actions present to ecosystems, and acknowledges that measures should be undertaken with a multi-objective perspective. Mitigation or adaptation actions that do not adequately consider ecosystems may be maladaptive, delivering minimal emission reductions – or in the worst case increasing emissions – and exacerbating the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change. Poorly planned deployment of bioenergy, hydropower and other climate responses is already driving ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and undermining livelihoods.
The right to public participation in decision-making is specifically recognized in the context of environmental issues, including climate change. For example, the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, and the Aarhus Convention affirm that the best environmental decisions are made when civil society participates.
The UNFCCC provides that Parties must promote and facilitate public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses. It further states that Parties must encourage the widest participation in the negotiation process, and that access and participation of observers in the process promotes transparency in this increasingly complex, universal problem. Meaningful and effective public participation in relevant negotiating processes helps to promote wide public support and ensure the legitimacy of financial institutions and their policies.
REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The “+” expands REDD to include conservation, sustainable forest management, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
REDD+ is one of the proposed international solutions to tackle climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The basic concept recognizes that forests play an important role in protecting the climate and creates a financial incentive for developing countries to protect forests and reduce emissions.
If human rights, as well as biodiversity, are respected and promoted, then REDD+ has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits to the climate, to biodiversity, and to communities that depend on forests. However, REDD+ can also cause negative – and irreversible – impacts to the earth’s forests and the peoples whose livelihoods depend upon them if activities are implemented without respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and other local communities and complying with obligations that a country may have.
Safeguards and Accountability
UN Human Rights Council
The UN Human Rights Council has shown significant leadership on the connection between human rights and climate change. For example, in 2008, it adopted a resolution on human rights and climate change, stating that climate change “poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” Subsequent interventions include:
- Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on the Adverse Impacts of Climate Change on Human Rights (6 March 2015)
- Human Rights Council Resolution 26/27 on Human Rights and Climate Change (23 June 2014)
- Human Rights Council Seminar on Human Rights and Climate Change (23-24 February 2012)
- Human Rights Council Resolution 18/22 on Human Rights and Climate Change (30 September 2011)
- Human Rights Council Resolution 10/4 on Human Rights and Climate Change (25 March 2009
Under human rights law, States have obligations to protect those whose rights are affected by climate change, with priority given to groups that are particularly vulnerable. By extension, the UNFCCC, the Council and others have recognized that States must ensure that their responses to climate change do not themselves violate human rights.
In 2011, the UNFCCC took a critical step when it adopted the Cancun Agreements, which explicitly call on Parties to respect human rights when taking actions to address climate change.
The Paris Agreement in 2015 marked a watershed moment. The preamble called on countries to respect and promote human rights in all actions taken to address climate change. This was a landmark achievement: it marked the first reference to human rights in any multilateral environmental agreement. While the Paris Agreement is far from perfect, in this respect, it represents an important step.
The challenge now is to ensure that climate policies are designed, implemented and monitored in a manner that protects the full and effective enjoyment of human rights. For example, States must develop national climate policies – such as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) – through transparent processes that promote the effective participation of all affected communities, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable populations. It is also important to note that developed countries have responsibilities to assist poorer developing countries in their efforts to respect human rights, which complement developed country obligations under the UNFCCC.
“Climate Change: Tackling the Greatest Human Rights Challenge of Our Time,” CARE International and the Center for International Environmental Law (Feb 2015)
During the February 2015 climate negotiations in Geneva, 18 countries announced The Geneva Pledge on Human Rights in Climate Action. The non-binding, voluntary pledge reiterates the importance to address the human rights implications of climate change and emphasizes that human rights should inform to climate responses. More specifically, it commits its signatories to promote better cooperation among their representatives at the Human Rights Council and at the UNFCCC, as well as to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices among their own delegations.
As of November 27, 2015, the following states have signed onto The Geneva Pledge: Andorra, Algeria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d´Ivoire, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Luxembourg, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Morocco, Micronesia, Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Samoa, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uganda and Uruguay.
Human Rights in the Paris Agreement
Since 2009, the Human Rights & Climate Change Working Group has advocated to integrate human rights in the UNFCCC. The 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 nations, marks a watershed moment in our advocacy efforts. The preamble to the Agreement references human rights, marking the first such reference in a multilateral environmental agreement. But much work remains to turn this commitment into protections on the ground.
Road to Paris: Protecting human rights in climate action
In the lead-up to the climate talks in Copenhagen (COP15), the Working Group called on countries to recognize the human rights dimensions of climate change. Although countries failed to reach an agreement in Copenhagen, the UNFCCC took a critical first step the following year, when it adopted the Cancun Agreements, which explicitly call on Parties to respect human rights when taking actions to address climate change.
In February 2015, we secured the first reference to human rights in the draft negotiating text for the Paris Agreement, when Mexico, Chile, Tuvalu, Uganda, and others championed our human rights language.
Over the course of the year, we worked along with our allies to build a coalition representing women and gender, indigenous peoples, labor and trade unions, youth, faith-based, human rights, environmental, and climate justice groups. This unprecedented coalition proved to be immensely successful. Despite all odds, we secured strong language calling on countries to respect and promote human rights in all actions taken to address climate change.
During COP21, we put the issue of human rights on the political agenda, making it clear that the Paris Agreement marks the beginning of the road. Looking ahead, we have much work to do to build the capacity of countries to protect human rights when taking climate action and to hold them accountable when they fail to do so.
New UN Report Details Link between Climate Change and Human Rights Thu, Dec 10, 2015
Released on Human Rights Day, ahead of the finalization of a new climate agreement, Climate Change and Human Rights provides a comprehensive study of the links between human rights law and climate change.
Paris, 10 December 2015 – Recognizing the link between climate change and human rights is an important step towards protecting the fundamental rights of communities across the planet, according to a new United Nations report presented at the Paris climate meeting today.
Released on Human Rights Day, ahead of the finalization of a new climate agreement, Climate Change and Human Rights provides a comprehensive study of the links between human rights law and climate change. It says that anthropogenic climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and human rights of our time.
The far-reaching environmental impacts of climate change are already being felt, posing a potential threat to human rights across the world, including the rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Climate change is already having direct impact on humans and settlements through the degradation of ecosystems and resources, upon which so many depend for survival and livelihoods. We will see its impacts continue to affect the human rights of millions of people as conditions worsen.
“This new research sheds light on the link between climate change and human rights and can serve as a reference point for climate action beyond the stepping stone of the Paris agreement.”
The report-developed by UNEP in cooperation with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School-highlights the need for greater ambition in climate change actions and targets in order to safeguard human rights.
Citing UNEP’s 2015 Emissions Gap research, the report says that full implementation of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions is projected to reduce emissions in 2030 by up to 6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and will leave the world 12 gigatonnes short of the level required by 2030 to give a chance of staying below the “safe” level of 2°C global temperature rise this century.
This means that the projected level of global warming might result in climatic and environmental impacts, with potential impacts on human rights.
John H. Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, said, “This report arrives at a critical moment, as the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meet in Paris to begin a new chapter in our generational effort to defeat climate change. The report provides an indispensable basis for climate policy going forward, helping us see in detail how climate change threatens our ability to enjoy our human rights, and also how the exercise of human rights can inform and guide our climate policies.”
The report issues a set of specific recommendations related to protecting human rights from climate change impacts and responses, including:
- The inclusion in the Paris agreement of a schedule for assessing and revisiting country commitments with the aim of increasing, over time, the ambition of the climate targets set by countries.
- A reference in the Paris Agreement to the effects of climate change on the exercise of human rights and the need to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights in all climate-related activities.
- Ensuring implementation of social safeguards in various climate funds to take into account human rights considerations.
While the report acknowledges that many nations have taken steps towards fulfilling their obligations, it concludes by saying that only through increasing ambition and working collectively on climate change can the international community ensure the protection of human rights for all citizens across the world.
“Climate change is the result of choices made by human beings and has devastating impacts on a wide range of internationally guaranteed human rights-the rights to food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and health-for millions of people,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Human rights law imposes affirmative legal obligations on all states to protect human rights from climate harms, particularly the rights of persons in vulnerable situations, and to ensure accountability, including redress, where harms are suffered. We are living in an age of widespread breach of these obligations.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information, please contact:
Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP, +254 788 526 000, firstname.lastname@example.org
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In its 5th Assessment Report (2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) unequivocally confirmed that climate change is real and that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are its primary cause. The report identified the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases as some of the adverse impacts of climate change. These phenomena directly and indirectly threaten the full and effective enjoyment of a range of human rights by people throughout the world, including the rights to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development.
The negative impacts of climate change are disproportionately borne by persons and communities already in disadvantageous situations owing to geography, poverty, gender, age, disability, cultural or ethnic background, among others, that have historically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, persons, communities and even entire States that occupy and rely upon low-lying coastal lands, tundra and Arctic ice, arid lands, and other delicate ecosystems and at risk territories for their housing and subsistence face the greatest threats from climate change.
The negative impacts caused by climate change are global, contemporaneous and subject to increase exponentially according to the degree of climate change that ultimately takes place. Climate change, therefore, requires a global rights-based response. The Human Rights Council (HRC), its special procedures mechanisms, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have sought to bring renewed attention to human rights and climate change through a series of resolutions, reports, and activities on the subject, and by advocating for a human rights based approach to climate change. The Preamble of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that all States “should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights”.
OHCHR’s Key Messages on Human Rights and Climate Change
OHCHR’s Key Messages on Human Rights and Climate Change highlight the essential obligations and responsibilities of States and other duty-bearers (including businesses) and their implications for climate change-related agreements, policies, and actions. In order to foster policy coherence and help ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are adequate, sufficiently ambitious, non-discriminatory and otherwise compliant with human rights obligations, the following considerations should be reflected in all climate action.
- To mitigate climate change and to prevent its negative human rights impacts
- To ensure that all persons have the necessary capacity to adapt to climate change
- To ensure accountability and effective remedy for human rights harms caused by climate change
- To mobilize maximum available resources for sustainable, human rights-based development
- International cooperation
- To ensure equity in climate action
- To guarantee that everyone enjoys the benefits of science and its applications
- To protect human rights from business harms
- To guarantee equality and non-discrimination
- To ensure meaningful and informed participation
These messages are reflected in OHCHR’s submission, Understanding Human Rights and Climate Change, to the 21st Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (27 November 2015).
Advocating a Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change
The HRC has highlighted the importance of addressing human rights in the context of on-going discussions related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Council has repeatedly made available the results of its debates, studies and activities to the sessions of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. The outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development “The Future We Want” reaffirms the importance of human rights for achieving sustainable development.
Prior to this Conference, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized the responsibilities that all States have to ensure full coherence between efforts to advance the green economy, on the one hand, and their human rights obligations on the other, in an open letter to all Permanent Missions in New York and in Geneva. The Office also submitted key messages for the Conference. The negotiation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provided further opportunities to advocate integration of human rights within the framework of international efforts to promote sustainable development; however, the most critical negotiation, to date, on the subject of climate change, that of a legally binding agreement to limit climate change, is that of COP21 of the UNFCCC (December 2015).
With an eye toward this discussion, OHCHR and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice co-hosted a Climate Justice Dialogue in Geneva on 9 February 2015. The dialogue brought together representatives of delegates to the UNFCCC and the HRC, experts, and key civil society actors to discuss human rights and climate change. One outcome of this meeting was the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action, a voluntary initiative led by Costa Rica and initially supported by 18 countries from diverse regions. In the pledge, which is still open and now has over 30 signatories, countries undertake to facilitate the sharing of best practices and knowledge between human rights and climate experts at a national level.
Outlining a Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change
As the HRC has stressed, it is critical to apply a human rights-based approach to guide global policies and measures designed to address climate change. The essential attributes to a human rights-based approach are the following:
- As policies and programmes are formulated, the main objective should be to fulfil human rights.
- The rights-holders and their entitlements must be identified as well as the corresponding duty-bearers and their obligations in order to find ways to strengthen the capacities of rights-holders to make their claims and of duty-bearers to meet their obligations.
- Principles and standards derived from international human rights law – especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core universal human rights treaties, should guide all policies and programming in all phases of the process.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Declaration on the Right to Development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN Common Understanding of a Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation and other instruments emphasize that human rights principles like universality and inalienability, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness, non-discrimination and equality, participation and inclusion, accountability, and the rule of law must guide development. They outline a conceptual framework for development that has international human rights standards at its centre and the ultimate objective of fulfilling all human rights for all. The rights-based approach analyses obligations, inequalities and vulnerabilities, and seeks to redress discriminatory practices and unjust distributions of power. It anchors plans, policies and programmes in a system of rights, and corresponding obligations established by international law.
Human rights obligations apply to the goals and commitments of States in the area of climate change and require that climate actions should focus on protecting the rights of those most vulnerable to climate change. Human rights principles articulated in the Declaration on the Right to Development and other instruments call for such climate action to be both individual and collective and for it to benefit the most vulnerable. The UNFCCC further elaborates upon the need for equitable climate action calling for States to address climate change in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in order to benefit present and future generations.
Existing State commitments require international cooperation, including financial, technological and capacity-building support, to realise low-carbon, climate-resilient, and sustainable development, while also rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Only by integrating human rights in climate actions and policies and empowering people to participate in policy formulation can States promote sustainability and ensure the accountability of all duty-bearers for their actions. This, in turn, will promote consistency, policy coherence and the enjoyment of all human rights. Such an approach should be part of any climate change adaptation or mitigation measures, such as the promotion of alternative energy sources, forest conservation or tree-planting projects, resettlement schemes and others. Affected individuals and communities must participate, without discrimination, in the design and implementation of these projects. States should cooperate to address the global effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights around the world in a manner that emphasizes climate justice and equity.
A human rights-based approach also calls for accountability and transparency. It is not only States that must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change but also businesses which have the responsibility to respect human rights and do no harm in the course of their activities. States should make their adaptation and mitigation plans publicly available, and be transparent in the manner in which such plans are developed and financed. Accurate and transparent measurements of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and its impacts, including human rights impacts, will be essential for successful rights-based climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Because of the impacts of climate change on human rights, States must effectively address climate change in order to honour their commitment to respect, protect and fulfil human rights for all. Since climate change mitigation and adaptation measures can have human rights impacts; all climate change-related actions must also respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights standards.