The Maldives Leading on Climate Change AND Human Rights

The next round of UN climate negotiations are just getting under way here in Bonn, Germany (well, the “pre-sessionals” began yesterday, and the first main plenary is on Sunday — and, yes, a few of us from 350.org are here to keep up the pressure for getting countries to commit to 350!).  As countries reconvene to sort out what the next international treaty on climate change will look like there’s an interesting new fact on hand that will hopefully add to the negotiator’s sense of purpose.

Thanks to the leadership of the Maldives (also shortly following an announcement to go carbon neutral by 2020), the UN Human Rights Council has just adopted a resolution by consensus, which asserts that climate change undermines the human rights of millions of people around the world — especially in vulnerable countries like the Maldives.  Hopefully that news, along with all the mounting science and public pressure will lead governments to take bolder steps the coming weeks. 

But of course, we’re not going to sit around just hoping for the action we need.  We need to organize!

Here is the full media release from the Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs…

Maldives Secures Adoption of Key UN Resolution – Foreign Minister

25th March 2009, Male’; H.E. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs today announced the successful adoption of an important human rights resolution initiated by the Maldives. The announcement was made at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Speaking at the press briefing, Minister Shaheed expressed that the resolution titled Resolution L30 was designed to increase pressure on world governments to reach agreement during crucial international climate change negotiations. Reiterating the President of the UN Human Rights Council, Minister Shaheed conveyed that the Maldives-led resolution enjoyed the support of 88 co-sponsors including around 15 members of the Alliance of Small Island States and key friends and allies such as India, Sri Lanka, and the UK. Following a roll-call, the Resolution gained unanimous support for the resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change, and was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council by consensus.

Resolution L30 asserts that global warming undermines the human rights of millions of people around the world – especially in vulnerable countries like the Maldives and calls strongly for all States to persevere in their duty to pursue international cooperation to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Furthermore, the Resolution argues that the rights of people living in poor and vulnerable countries are most at risk and that international cooperation to tackle climate change is not just desirable, but rather a legal obligation to promote and protect human rights.

Minister Shaheed highlighted that only through such international cooperation can the right of all Maldivians to live and prosper in the country of their birth be protected. Resolution L30 therefore requests the convening of a high-level UN panel to address the human rights implications of global warming and also calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, to participate in key international climate change discussions.

This follows-on from Council Resolution 7/23 on Human Rights and Climate Change adopted by the UN last year which called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an analytical study into the relationship between climate change and human rights. The study subsequently published in January offered unequivocal proof that global warming undermines a wide-range of fundamental rights including to food, water, shelter, health, life and self-determination.

In Resolution L30, UN Member States responded to the study, highlighting key conclusions and proposing next steps, which amongst others urges for a Human Rights Council panel debate to be held in June to highlight to effects of climate change on individual lives and rights, and to send a clear and strong political message to the Bali Process of UNFCCC climate change negotiations due to end in Copenhagen in December; a request for the High Commissioner to attend key climate change meetings in New York and Copenhagen; and a call for UN human rights Special Rapporteurs (independent experts) to actively address climate change and suggest ways in which human rights law can strengthen the case for global action.

At the briefing, H.E. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, Minister of Foreign Affairs proclaimed that: “Today is a proud day for the Maldives and a hugely significant day for climate change diplomacy. As of today, effective agreement in international climate change negotiations is now a legal obligation under human rights law. Large emitters continue to send greenhouse gases into the atmosphere knowing that their actions directly undermine the rights of millions of people, including in the Maldives. Most important, the resolution shows that climate change, like any other issue of human cause and human effect, can be placed within a human rights framework and dealt with in a way that promotes the ideas of accountability and justice. Today the Maldives and its friends in the international community have sent out a powerful message to climate change negotiators – that they cannot and must not fail”.

During multilateral negotiations ahead of the vote, the Maldives worked with and led a cross-regional group of friends on the subject that included: Costa Rica, Uruguay, Switzerland, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Bangladesh, Philippines, Mauritius, Zambia and Ghana.

 

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