The history of Indigenous peoples is one marred by colonialism, forced assimilation, and other human rights violations. Today, Indigenous peoples and communities around the world continue a long struggle to preserve their traditions, identity, and ancestral lands – an endeavor that includes the protection of nature in these territories.

This history of being discriminated against and excluded makes it even more striking that the world now increasingly looks to Indigenous people as we search for answers to some of the most urgent human rights challenges of our time. Bearing this in mind, the theme of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples focusing on the role of women and the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge, must be heard by the entire international community – through dedicated spaces like the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, but also beyond in other UN fora, so that their meaningful participation may influence all types of national and global policy making, such as in the areas of human rights, environment, development, and peace.

Although Indigenous people only make up around six percent of the global population, they protect eighty percent of the biodiversity left in the world. Often preserved through traditional practices, these tend to be areas where nature is degrading less rapidly, and which are now considered critical in combatting the global environmental crises. Heeding and implementing this knowledge will be essential to preserving a livable planet and realizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, which was recently recognized by the UN General Assembly. Importantly, the resolution also acknowledges the disproportionate impacts of environmental damage on Indigenous peoples, amongst other communities.

At the same time, many Indigenous lands and territories across the world remain under threat, including by corporate interests and activities. In places like Brazil, GuatemalaIndonesia and the Solomon Islands, Franciscans support Indigenous peoples and communities that stand up to extractive industries, megaprojects, and large-scale agricultures, facing threats and criminalization for doing so. Their experiences, challenges and the lessons learnt from these struggles are invaluable to the ongoing negotiations at the UN on new and binding international rules to prevent companies to do harm to human rights and the environment. These must include respect for the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and communities. More generally, such rules will also improve accountability and access to justice when harm has occurred.

Although this participation in national and international debates of indigenous people is key, claiming and defending human rights remains dangerous work. This is especially true for Indigenous human rights defenders and their allies, who have faced threats and intimidation in countries across the world. In their 2021 Global Analysis, Front Line Defenders reports that human rights defenders working on environment, land, megaprojects, and Indigenous peoples’ rights are most often targeted because of their work.

In their struggle for human rights, Franciscan sisters and brothers have long stood with Indigenous communities. As part of this endeavor, Franciscans International has helped provide a platform for Indigenous voices at the United Nations in both Geneva and New York. Our work also includes the development of  resources, such as our fact-sheets on Covid-19 and Indigenous Peoples, that empower Indigenous human rights defenders at all levels to more effectively engage with the UN.

On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we call on the international community to not only address the many human rights issues still facing Indigenous peoples and communities across the world, but also to welcome them as invaluable actors in solving the many urgent crises we face today.

In an historic vote on 28 July, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Franciscans International welcomes the support of 161 States for this resolution, which affirms that a healthy environment is indeed a human right that should be protected and guaranteed to all without discrimination. This is an important step toward stronger international and domestic efforts to help preserve the environment worldwide. 

“The universal recognition of a clean, healthy and sustainable environment provides a powerful and effective response that we hope will catalyze transformative changes in our societies, including by generating a paradigm shift of what our relationship to the environment and ecosystems should be,” said Ambassador Maritza Chan Valverde of Costa Rica, who introduced the resolution. She also expressed the hope that the universal recognition will contribute to improving environmental outcomes for States that have already enshrined this right in their domestic legislation and will provide a starting point for constitutional and legislative changes in States that have not. 

With its decision the General Assembly also reaffirmed an October 2021 resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, which first formally recognized this right at an international level. However, with the General Assembly being the only UN organ in which all Member States have equal representation, today’s vote carries additional significance. 

“This decision is truly historic. However, it is also long overdue and comes at a time when all warning signs are on red and we are quickly running out of options to avert a global environmental catastrophe,” said Sandra Epal-Ratjen, FI’s International Advocacy Director. “It is now undeniable that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right that should be enjoyed by all. After this vote, all States must commit to its realization.”

The recognition of the right to a healthy environment comes after a long and sustained international advocacy campaign by broad coalitions and follows calls by over 1.350 civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, social movements and local communities. The decision by the General Assembly also sends a strong message confirming that the struggle for environmental justice is indeed a human rights struggle. 

FI will continue to work closely with Franciscans and other partners around the world advocating for the full and concrete implementation of this right as the basis for more just and effective environmental policies. 

With the election of President Marcos in May 2022, the Philippines has entered a new chapter in its troubled human rights history. The new administration took office after a controversial campaign marred by allegations of widespread disinformation and will have to decide how it deals with the legacy of President Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’, in which tens of thousands of Filipinos became victims of extra judicial killings.

“I fear this election result will mean a continuation of the wars that the Duterte administration started: the war on drugs, the war on the marginalized, the war against fighting Covid-19,” says Brother Angel Cortez OFM, who visited Geneva during the 50th session of the Human Rights Council. “It puts the families of victims in a vacuum and will be a constant reminder of the pain of losing someone.”

As part of a civil society alliance that includes faith-based networks, Franciscans have been advocating for accountability for the violations committed under the Duterte administration. In the past, Brother Angel repeatedly addressed the UN Human Rights Council and diplomats in Geneva, providing updates from the ground and sharing the testimonies of victims.

These efforts contributed to an investigation published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2020, which provides evidence of serious human rights violations, including killings, arbitrary detentions, as well as vilification of dissent. The report also noted the persistent impunity and formidable barriers for victims to access justice.

“We are still in a grieving process, but we also need to start working again with the people of the Philippines,” says Brother Angel. “We will continue our calls for an independent, international, investigation. We are also asking for human rights benchmarks based on the report by the High Commissioner, because the situation has actually worsened, rather than improved.”

The human rights situation in the Philippines remains precarious, especially for human rights defenders critical of the government. With domestic barriers to obtaining justice that are all but insurmountable, Franciscans will continue to raise this situation at the United Nations and advocate for an international investigation to address past violations and end the prevailing impunity in the country. 

During the session we shared various concerns from Franciscans and other partners with the Council. You can find all the statements that were delivered or co-sponsored by Franciscans International below.

● ● ●

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Haiti (1 July)

Haiti faces an unprecedented security crisis, manifested through kidnappings, the control of strategic territories by armed gangs, and political instability. While expressing our concerns in this joint statement, we also highlighted efforts to improve human rights situation and encouraged the State to implement the accepted recommendations as soon as possible and ensure their wide dissemination at the national level.

● Full statement (French)

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Uganda (30 June)

We expressed our regret that Uganda only noted most of the recommendations made relating to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, despite violations continuing across the country. Based on the testimonies gathered for our joint stakeholders’ submission ahead of Uganda’s examination, Franciscans International also raised the issue of female genital mutilation and encouraged the government to adopt a holistic approach in combatting this practice.

● Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (28 June)

During this Interactive Dialogue, we raised two largely underreported cases with the Human Rights Council. Since 2017, more than 700.000 people have fled terrorist attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. In the 2019 elections, most internally displaced persons (IDPs) were disenfranchised because their voter registration had not been transferred and returning to their place of origin was impossible. Meanwhile, the situation in West Papua, Indonesia, continues to be dire. There are only ten camps accommodating over 2.000 people who are unable or afraid to go home, as their villages have been destroyed or the presence of security forces has increased.

● Full statement (English)

Panel on the adverse effects of climate change on human rights of people in vulnerable situations (28 June)

People who are disproportionally suffering from the negative impacts of climate change are also made more vulnerable by the lack of protection and sustainable solutions, with women being in particularly terrible situations. Indigenous people are likewise in vulnerable positions but at the same time hold vital knowledge and science through which key ecosystems have been protected or could be restored. In a joint statement, we asked the panel how best to ensure the meaningful participation of these agents of change.

● Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity (24 June)

Many local communities have had their human rights adversely impacted by transnational extractive companies as well as local operations that are part of global value chains. Irrespective of the scale of the activities, we often see widespread human rights violations and failed promises for development. An international legally binding instrument on business and human rights could be both as a tool for prevention and accountability. In a joint statement, we called on all States to engage proactively and in good faith in the current process toward such an instrument.  

● Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (24 June)

The participation and support of armed forces in immigration control is a widespread practice across the Americas. In addition, pushbacks and mass expulsions have increased and immigration detention is no longer an exception. Human rights defenders working with migrants are targeted for their work. In a joint statement, we urged States to put an end to the use of armed forces for immigration control, respect the principle of non-refoulement, and suspend any measure that could put the life of people on the move at risk.

● Full statement (Spanish and English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change (23 June)

In a joint statement, we welcomed the first report of Mr Ian Fry to the Human Rights Council and expressed our high expectations for his mandate, as the latest reports and projections of the IPCC confirm the strong need to put human rights at the center of climate action. We also noted with interest the vision shared by the Special Rapporteur and were particularly encouraged to see climate-induced mobility and the role of business among his priorities for the first years of the mandate.

● Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue on the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (22 June)

In a joint statement, we encouraged the Special Rapporteur to monitor and investigate violations of the right to life in the context of drug policy. In particular, civil society organizations in the Philippines have documented thousands of suspected extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the context of punitive policies and repressive, militarized anti-drug campaigns. These disproportionally affect racial and ethnic minorities, while perpetrators often enjoy impunity.

● Full statement (English)

Thumbnail: UN Photo / Jean Marc Ferré

This year, World Environment Day comes on the heels of the international meeting Stockholm+50, which marked fifty years since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment.  Five decades since this first global conference on the environment, the world is facing a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. We are witnessing an  absurd paradox, where consistent and dire warnings from scientists  are issued in parallel with States entrenching the policies which have led us to impeding catastrophe.

At the same time, countless individuals and organizations resist this status quo and are confronting the urgency of the situation. Human rights defenders, like Bernardo Caal Xol in Guatemala, challenge the operations of companies that pollute and degrade water resources. Franciscans in Brazil have raised awareness on the rights of victims seeking justice for environmental harms caused by mining disasters. They do so at great risk: of the at least 358 human rights defenders killed worldwide in 2021, nearly 60 percent worked on land, environmental or Indigenous rights.

Nevertheless, these and other initiatives have been recognized and echoed throughout the UN system, leading towards significant actions for greater environmental protection. For example, in October 2021, the Human Rights Council established the mandate for a Special Rapporteur on climate change and human rights, and recognized the right to a healthy environment. The third draft of the legally binding instrument on business activities and human rights also called on States Parties to undertake environmental and climate change impact assessments.

Moreover, support for the right to a healthy environment has been reiterated by UN agenciesexperts, and by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, including in the 2021 Our Common Agenda report and most recently at the Stockholm+50 meeting, where he urged “countries to embrace the human right to a clean, healthy environment for all people, everywhere […].”

Franciscans International has supported these important voices and efforts, alongside that of our Franciscan and secular partners, through advocacy at the UN. This has recently included an event held in parallel with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment underscored that recognition of the right to a healthy environment “should be a catalyst for changes at the constitutional level, the legislative level, and most importantly for changes for actions on the ground to deliver clearer air, cleaner water […] and non-toxic environments for every person on this planet.” 

On World Environment Day, we stand in solidarity with and celebrate individuals and communities globally who not only already face the adverse impacts of environmental degradation and climate change, but also work tirelessly to challenge the policies and vested interests which have facilitated the current crisis. We further call on the UN General Assembly to reaffirm the recognition of the right to a healthy environment, and for States to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for all.

On 22 April, the International Board of Directors (IBD) of FI welcomed Sister Charity Nkandu SFMA, Carolyn Townes OFS, and Brother Michael Perry OFM as new members. During their first in-person gathering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the board also elected Brother Michael, former Minister General of the Friars Minor, as its new president.

Brother Michael, who previously worked with FI to establish the organization’s Africa program, stressed the relevance of Franciscan values of peace, human dignity, and care for nature in addressing current global crises through the United Nations. He also called on the Franciscan Family and people everywhere to support this mission.

In total, FI’s IBD is made up of eight members, who are elected for a maximum of two three-year terms. Together, they represent the different Catholic Franciscan Orders and Congregations, as well as the Anglican Society of Saint Francis. Appointed by the Conference of the Franciscan Family (CFF), the board members oversee the ordinary management of the organization and its activities.

FI expresses its profound gratitude to Sister Carla Casadei SFP, Ruth Markus OFS, and outgoing president Joseph Rozansky OFM who guided a restructuring process toward greater organizational transparency and helped to ensure that FI remained relevant as a voice representing Franciscans worldwide. They also contributed greatly to fostering stronger relationships between the staff and the wider Franciscan Family.

FI Executive Director Markus Heinze OFM (left) with outgoing IBD President Joseph Rozansky OFM and Sister Charity Nkandu SFMA

“As I transitionof the Board – but not from the life of FI – there are two things that stand out for me as emblematic of the work we have done. At the level of the entire organization, the process of creating a strategic plan taught us to collaborate with all involved; the staff, the Board, the Franciscan Family, our partners, and the beneficiaries of our efforts,” said Brother Joseph.

“The process helped us to foster a cohesive approach to our common task. At the level of the Board, we were able to create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, which allowed us to face all challenges and difficulties in a Franciscan spirit of love and fraternity. Both of these characteristics will serve us well into the future.”

From left to right: Brother Markus, Sister Charity, Brothers Michael, Joseph Rozansky, Blair, James, Joseph Blay and Eduardo.

International Board of Directors (2022 – 2024)

  • Michael Perry OFM (President)
    Representative of the Order of Friars Minor
  • Charity Lydia Katongo Nkandu SFMA (Vice-President)
    Representative of the International
     Franciscan Conference of the Sisters and Brothers of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis
  • Joseph Blay OFMConv (Secretary)
    Representative of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual
  • James Donegan OFMCap (Treasurer)
    Representative of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
  • José Eduardo Jazo Tarín TOR
    Representative of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis
  • Carolyn Townes OFS
    Representative of the Secular Franciscan Order
  • Blair Matheson TSSF
    Representative of the Society of Saint Francis
  • Markus Heinze OFM (Ex Officio)
    Executive Director Franciscans International

During her contribution to an expert seminar at New York University today, FI’s Representative at the UN Marya Farah relayed the concrete concerns of Franciscans and other partners globally that already experience the effects of environmental degradation.

FI stressed the importance of the recognition of the right to a healthy environment for civil society efforts at the UN in both Geneva and New York, emphasizing that “full recognition at the UN will serve to standardize and lift national ambitions and norms, and support the monitoring and enforcement of such laws. Recognition will also provide for more coherence throughout the UN, including via the systematization of the right.” This contribution added to those of high-level speakers, including the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and the current and former UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights and the environment.

The affirmation of the right to a healthy environment by the General Assembly will be critical to strengthen accountability of governments and positively impact efforts at the national level for human rights based environmental policies. As speakers stressed during the event, it also is an important tool for anyone fighting to keep our planet livable for future generations. This is especially true for environmental human rights defenders, who often face particular risks because of their work.

In October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council already paved the way by adopting a landmark resolution, recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The decision, which followed years of sustained advocacy by civil society, is a key step in acknowledging the strong links between the state of the environment and the enjoyment of all human rights.

A recording of the full event is available here.

As the power of corporations has grown, so should their responsibility towards human rights and our planet. Yet the reality is that around the world, harms to people’s rights through business activities continue to take place with impunity. This is why in 2014 the UN Human Rights Council kicked off a process to establish a treaty to regulate transnational corporations under international human rights law. A report on the latest round of negotiations of such as treaty among States who have gathered in a dedicated working group will be considered on 16 March.

As the Human Rights Council considers the report, an international civil society coalition is standing up against attempts to undermine this crucial process. Looking ahead to the next round of negotiations in October, we call on you to support our efforts to do so in the next months. If we truly want to protect human dignity and our planet, we need a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations.

Several powerful States – primarily those headquartering large corporations – have so far refused to engage constructively with this process. They are now trying to impose their view on other States. In doing so, they are ignoring the progress made during the last seven years and the dire need for action that reality calls for.

Most of these States have pointed to existing alternatives such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as being sufficient. Yet time and again, these voluntary frameworks have proven inadequate to prevent or remedy human rights abuses by companies.

In the past years, Franciscans International has worked to bring attention to the situation of victims seeking justice in mining-related cases such as Brumadinho (Brazil)Arica (Chile)Marinduque (the Philippines), and Kabwe (Zambia), where a combination of corporate negligence and weak government oversight have caused long-lasting and devastating harm.

In countries including GuatemalaColombiaEl SalvadorIndonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Franciscans and their partners have stood up as access to water and other human rights are threatened by large scale industrial projects. In most cases, companies have been allowed to evade full accountability for their wrongdoing by using different legal loopholes. Meanwhile, the damage they caused is likely to be felt for generations. 

Oftentimes, human rights violations already occur during the early stages of extractive projects, with communities kept in the dark about the full impacts and risks and cut out of the supposed benefits. This is why “free, prior, and informed consent” is one of the key issues covered in our recent fact-sheets on human rights and Indigenous People. It is also why FI is working closely with several human rights experts at the UN on this issue, for example by contributing to the development of the “megaproject cycle” by the former Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation, which helps communities navigate these processes.

Yet the simple fact is that all these efforts can only have a limited impact without an overarching UN treaty. Since 2014, Franciscans International has thus supported the negotiations by both providing technical support and by bringing representatives of affected communities to the UN so they can share their testimonies. Nevertheless, seven years later we find ourselves at a crossroads.

The next session of the UN working group in charge of the negotiations in October 2022 will likely be a critical moment for this process. This fight for corporate accountability has been, and will continue to be, a collective effort. If you want to be a part of this struggle, we invite you to sign up for our special mailing list so we can keep you informed about new development and let you know what action you can take when the time comes!

The Council convened from 28 February to 1 April in a hybrid format, combining both in-person and online participation. You can find all the statements that were delivered or co-sponsored by Franciscans International below.

• • •

Item 4: General Debate – Haiti (21 March)

In the five years since the Council decided to end the mandate of the Independent Expert on Haiti, the democratic process in the country has further deteriorated. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the 2021 earthquake, a political crisis and widespread organized crime have all negatively impacted human rights. This context has led to internal forced displacement and migration, with people suffering further violations while on the move. In a joint statement, we stressed that it is imperative that the Council and its mechanisms include Haiti on their agenda as a priority.

• Full statement (French)

Item 4: General Debate – Indonesia (21 March)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the human rights situation in West Papua has continued to deteriorate, with perpetrators of serious violations among Indonesian security enjoying impunity. There is no dialogue for peace and international humanitarian access to the affected communities is denied. In a joint statement, we urged the Council to mandate a comprehensive report on the human rights situation of Indigenous Papuans.

• Full statement (English)

Item 4: General Debate – Climate change (21 March)

In a joint statement, we welcomed and expressed our support for the new UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change. We encouraged the mandate holder to develop systematic and inclusive ways of working with all civil society stakeholders, including faith-based and women’s rights’ organizations. We also called on the future Special Rapporteur to promote better participation of civil society actors in national processes.

• Full statement (English)

Item 3: General Debate – the Philippines (16 March)

Despite the commencement of the implementation of the Philippines-United Nations Joint Programme on human rights, civic space in country has further decreased ahead of the upcoming 2022 elections. Human rights defenders have been killed and assaulted and face enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, and legal harassment. We reiterated our call on the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution this years that includes a strong focus on accountability mechanism for the on-going human rights violations in the Philippines.

• Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food – Guatemala (14 March)

Protecting the traditional knowledge of peasants and indigenous peoples is essential to guarantee food systems and help protect the environment. Instead of prioritizing initiatives designed to protect peasant family agriculture, the Government of Guatemala is supporting measures and laws that threaten biodiversity and native seeds. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the right to food has been further threatened, with cases of child malnutrition tripling in 2020 . During this Interactive Debate, FIAN and Franciscans International asked the Special Rapporteur what specific measures can be implemented to make an inclusive and participatory transition towards a model based on agro-ecology.

• Full statement (Spanish and English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders – Guatemala (11 March)

Space for civil society in Guatemala has shrunk dramatically in the past years. The so-called “NGO Law” allows the executive branch to cancel the registration of non-governmental organizations and gives the possibility to criminalize members of organizations that receive international funds. In a context that grows increasingly hostile, over a thousand attacks against human rights defenders have been documented in 2021. The lack of an independent judiciary further enables the criminalization of defenders. In a joint statement, we urged the Council to call on Guatemala to protect human rights defenders, apply a comprehensive protection policy, repeal the NGO Law, and ensure the conditions for an independent judiciary.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders – the Philippines (11 March)

In joint statement, we highlighted the dangers faced by human rights defenders in the Philippines, who have been subjected to a range of violations including public vilification, intimidation, reprisals, profiling, surveillance, judicial harassment, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings. We also acknowledged the recent adoption of a HRD Protection Bill by the House of Representatives and thanked the Special Rapporteur for her strong endorsement of this legislation.

• Full statement (English)

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (11 March)

Franciscans International raised the catastrophic impacts of mining pollution in Mariana and Brumadinho (Brazil) as well as in Lualaba (the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Victims have been unable obtain scientific and independent assessments of the damage caused, barring them from adequate reparations. Considering these situations, we asked the Special Rapporteur what steps States could take to ensure adequate reparations in cases of disasters that they were not able to prevent.

• Full statement (English and Portuguese)

Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child (9 March)

Around the world, millions of children are forced to move, fleeing from conflicts, climate change, poverty, among other reasons. In a joint statement, we called on States to uphold their obligations to prevent unnecessary child-family separations. We also asked the panellists what can be done to ensure thatthe views of children in these contexts are taken into account, and that they are empowered to contribute to decision-making affecting them.

• Full statement (English)

Item 2: General Debate – Colombia (8 March)

Franciscans International welcomed the report on Colombia by the High Commissioner, as one of the more than 300 civil society organizations that called for an investigation into the serious human rights violations that occurred during the protests in April and May 2021. However, we also voiced our concern that there has been little accountability for those responsible and that structural problems, which fueled the protests, remain unaddressed. In a joint statement, FI asked the Council to urge Colombia to implement the recommendation in the report and expressed its support for continued monitoring and technical assistance by the OHCHR.

• Full statement (Spanish and English)

Item 2: General Debate – Guatemala (8 March)

Following the report by the High Commissioner, we expressed our concerns about the dismantling of public institutions that monitor the human rights situation in Guatemala. Human rights defenders and independent judicial officials continue to be criminalized and harassed, while a proposed protection policy for human rights defenders, journalists, and trade unionists has not been adopted. In a joined statement, 11 organizations called on the Council to declare Guatemala a country that requires its special attention.

• Full statement (Spanish)

Item 2: Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the report on Sri Lanka (7 March)

On 21 April 2019, the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka killed 296 people, including 82 children, and injured more than 500 others. Although initially the attack was believed to be the work of a few Islamic extremists, subsequent investigations indicate that the massacre was part of a larger political plot. There have been attempts to harass and intimidate those who demand justice, and three years later it is still unclear what happened that Easter Sunday. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith urged the Council to continue their support for evidence gathering and to ensure an impartial investigation.

• Full statement (English)

Thumbnail photo: UN Photo / Jean Marc Ferré

On 8 October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council overwhelmingly voted to support two resolutions that underline the urgency of the global environmental crisis and affirm the central role of human rights in any meaningful solutions and mitigation efforts. Franciscans International warmly welcomed both decisions, which followed years of sustained collective advocacy by civil society.

In the years leading up to the vote, FI has focused part of its international advocacy towards linking human rights and the environment, demanding more environmental justice. In doing so, we were not only echoing concrete concerns of Franciscans and other partners living and working with local communities but also following key Franciscan values and spiritual teachings: the care for our planet.

With resolution A/HRC/48/L.23, the Council recognized a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. While many countries are already recognizing such a right in their national and regional laws, until recently, there was no such recognition at the universal level.  

“In the context of the multiple environmental crises of pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change, such a recognition is the least the main human rights body of the UN could do for present and future generations,” said Sandra Epal Ratjen, FI’s International Advocacy Director. “The adoption of this resolution is a strong political signal and will be a key stepping stone for further advances in the promotion and protection of this right worldwide.”

The Council also adopted resolution A/HRC/48/L.27, creating a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change. FI called for the establishment of this a mandate as early as 2010 and has since consistently raised its importance to analyze and advise on the impacts that climate change but also that climate responses have on the rights of people, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged.

“FI warmly welcomes this much needed and overdue decision,” said Epal Ratjen. “The last IPCC report shows that the international community needs to urgently ramp up its coordinated efforts for climate justice, radically raising and respecting ambitions, while putting the rights of the affected communities at the core.”