United Nations report links human rights and climate breakdown

Published by Brent Patterson on

Making space for peace and human rights and averting climate breakdown are deeply interconnected issues.

Philip Alston is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

His report — which will be formally presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this coming Friday — concludes, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

Alston issued a media release today that says with climate change “civil and political rights will be highly vulnerable.”

Peace Brigades International – Schweiz/Suisse has its office in Geneva and has a regular presence at UN meetings there.

Given major extractive projects including agribusiness, hydroelectric dams, mines and fossil fuel projects are all contributors to climate breakdown, the work of human rights defenders is critical to averting the deepening climate catastrophe the world is facing.

The London-based international non-governmental organization Global Witness has reported that 201 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2017.

Their efforts were helping to slow climate breakdown.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood says, “We need to salute their astounding bravery and pledge to add our voices to support their continued struggle against those who want to rip their land up for oil or gas, tear down its trees for timber, flatten it for intensive non-organic and polluting farming or poison it with industrial waste.”

Global Witness adds that the killings of environmental defenders in 2017 includes “the murder of Hernán Bedoya in Colombia, shot 14 times by a paramilitary group for protesting against palm oil and banana plantations on land stolen from his community.”

The writing on the road in the Peace Brigades International – Colombia Project photo with this post reads: “Sin olvido (we will not forget you) Hernán Bedoya”.

Related to this, the PBI – Honduras Project has accompanied the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh Intibucá) since May 2016.

Berta Cáceres, the coordinator of COPINH, was shot dead in March 2016. At the time of her assassination, she was campaigning against the proposed Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River which is considered sacred by the Lenca Indigenous people.

The Guardian has reported, “Researchers have found that rotting vegetation in the water means that the dams emit about a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.”

The PBI – Guatemala Project accompanies the Peaceful Resistance of La Laguna which is opposed to deforestation.

Global Forest Watch has reported, “In 2017, Guatemala lost 79.7kha (thousand hectares) of tree cover, equivalent to 6.16Mt [megatonnes or million tons] of CO₂ of emissions.”

And the Peace Brigades International – Mexico Project accompanies Educa Oaxaca which has raised concerns about the impacts of Canadian mining in the state of Oaxaca.

The industrial mining of gold, silver and other metals worsen climate breakdown because of the clearing of the land (deforestation) to set up the mine and related roadways as well as the large amount of diesel fuel used to dig and transport rock in the mining process.

John Knox, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, has stated, “If we can’t protect [environmental defenders], then how can we protect the environment we all depend on?”

The current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment is David Boyd from Canada.

Boyd and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst recently thanked the youth involved in the “Fridays For Future” protests for the climate leadership they are offering to the world.

The international “Fridays for Future” youth movement for climate action began when climate activist Greta Thunberg held a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate) outside the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) in August 2018.


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