Danish Institute: Don’t forget to secure human rights

Danish Institute: Don’t forget to secure human rights

2009. 12. 11.

The possible final agreement on climate change might end up not securing adequate human rights protection for the most vulnerable groups, warns the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The Institute has analyzed preparatory negotiating texts and concludes that the words mentioned here about securing human rights are, in places, inaccurate and inappropriate.

“There is reason to integrate more firmly human rights into the negotiating texts and in the final agreement,” the Danish Institute for Human Rights concludes in a brand new policy text: “Human Rights and Climate Change”.

As an example, the Institute mentions a specific document from the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention about which it concludes:

“The references to human rights in this document are not sufficiently precise. The document includes references to “sustainable development”, “the right to live well” and to “statehood” as human rights in (para. 13). These rights, as relevant as they may be, are not human rights set out in international human rights instruments.”

However, the text could be rewritten and by doing so actually build on a Human Rights Council Resolution of 25 March 2009, where states recognize that climate change-related impacts have a range of implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of human rights, the Institute says.

Jonas Christoffersen (photo above), Director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights says to that the negotiating parties might fail to secure adequate protection of the most vulnerable groups, if they fail to include a rights perspective in the final agreement.

“For instance, if the right to health is not provided in the agreement, how will we ensure that the relevant actors are called into action, when climate changes undermine the livelihood and health of people,” Jonas Christoffersen asks.

The Director stresses that it is first and foremost the responsibility of states to take action and secure the human rights of their people. But also UN organizations like the World Health Organization should be primed to act, when fundamental rights are under threat.

“If for instance the right to health is not specified in the agreement, there are no real obligations and no one can be held accountable. This also means that we will not be gathering knowledge in this area, with the implication that vulnerable people may tend to become invisible,” says Jonas Christoffersen.

(Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix)