Working toward environmental justice at the United Nations

Find out more about FI’s advocacy efforts to link human rights and the environment and the current processes happening at the UN

With Covid-19 and the “triple planetary crisis” (biodiversity, climate and pollution), the world is alerted to the urgency of acting to care for and preserve the planet. But while humanity has been called to this realization, it seems that the vast majority of governments are again bowing to financial and economic interests and are privileging short-sighted solutions.

In parallel, given how the pandemics has exposed and exacerbated inequalities, respecting the rights and dignity of everyone, without discrimination and against impunity, should be more than ever the priority. Yet, we are currently witnessing a clear backlash on human rights such as the rights to safe drinking water, to education or to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly across the globe.

In this context, Franciscans International is focusing a part of its international advocacy towards linking rights and environment, and thus demands for more environmental justice. In doing so, FI is echoing not only concrete concerns of Franciscans and other partners living and working with local communities but is also following key Franciscan values and spiritual teachings: the care for our planet.

Two specific global processes currently debated at the UN actively receive our attention.

  • The first is about the creation of a new UN mandate that should see an independent expert leading the work on climate change and human rights. Such a so-called “Special Rapporteur” should analyse and advise on the impacts of climate change but also on the impacts of climate responses on the rights of people, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged.
  • The second concerns the call to recognize at the global level the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (in short, the right to a healthy environment). Such a right is currently recognized in domestic and regional laws at various degrees and in different forms but because the threats to this right don’t know borders, progress is needed globally.

On both processes, this year has been and will still be extremely important with decisions to be taken by States under the UN auspices. FI is actively involved in civil society efforts to weigh in on these decisions bringing the real-life experiences and the voices of those who are the most affected by climate change and by the lack of recognition and protection of the right to a healthy environment.

Have a look at some of recent work on these issues

Publications

  • “A UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change? Regional Perspectives” (25-01-2021)

Calls to actions

  • An Open Letter by Global Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples for the Establishment of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change (22-06-2021)
  • The time is now! Recognize the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment (14-09-2020)
  • Call to action: Realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment (07-02-2020)

Articles

  • "UN Human Rights Council shies away from appointing expert on climate" - Geneva Solutions (25-06-2021)
  • "Faith groups back call for UN special rapporteur for climate and human rights" - New Catholic Reporter (18-06-2021)
  • “Indigenous people's lives depend on their lands, but threats are growing worldwide” – New Catholic Reporter (12-05-2021)
  • Sister Water calls us to the people of El Salvador (30-03-2021)
  • COVID-19: Extreme poverty and environmental justice (30-04-2020)

Events

  • “Justice and Accountability in the Context of Extractive Industries”, with indigenous human rights defenders from Bangladesh, Brazil, Guatemala and Indonesia (29-04-2021)
  • New York – Geneva dialogue on the Sustainable Development Goals and climate action in times of Covid-19 recovery (29-04-2021)
  • “Urgently Addressing Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue”, with small island states, indigenous peoples, and youth and faith perspectives (26-03-2021)
  • “Water Sources have a Woman’s Face” on access to water in Central America (12-03-2021)
  • “The responsibility of business on human rights: Franciscan action at the UN from the perspective of Laudato Si’.” (13-11-2020)
  • “Human rights abuses and environmental degradation - what the treaty can bring,” during the 6th session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations (29-10-2020)
  • “Privatization and the rights to water and sanitation,” a conversation with former UN Special Rapporteur Léo Heller (16-10-2020)
  • “Walking the talk: Exploring concrete steps towards human rights-aligned policies in a world in crisis,” linking sustainable development, climate policies, and human rights compliance (14-07-2020)
  • “Ten years on the human rights to water and sanitation,” on a transformative pathway for the SDGs and Covid-19 response (20-07-2020)
  • “The impact of megaprojects on the human rights to water and sanitation,” with the Special Rapporteur on water and testimonies from Colombia, Guatemala, and Zambia (12-09-2019)
  • “Inclusive national policies in the face of climate change,” with a sharing of first-hand testimonies from Vanuatu (15-06-2019)

UN statements and submissions

46th Session of the Human Rights Council

  • Item 4: General Debate, statement on a Special Rapporteur on climate change (11-03-2021)
  • Item 3: General Debate, statement on a Special Rapporteur on climate change (10-03-2021)
  • Item 3: General Debate, statement on the Right to a healthy environment (09-03-2021)
  • Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the environment (04-03-2021)
  • Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child (01-03-2021)
  • End of session statement (24-03-2021)

45th Session of the Human Rights Council

  • End of session statement (07-10-2020)
  • Item 6: UPR outcome of Kiribati (29-09-2020)
  • Item 4: General Debate, statement on a Special Rapporteur on climate change (25-09-2020)
  • Item 3: General Debate, statement on the Right to a healthy environment (22-09-2020)

44th Session of the Human Rights Council

  • Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the International Expert on international solidarity (09-07-2020)

43rd Session of the Human Rights Council

  • Item 6: Universal Periodic Review (14-06-2020)
  • Item 4: General Debate, statement on a Special Rapporteur on climate change (11-03-2020)

Universal Periodic Review

  • Joint stakeholders' submission for the UPR of the Solomon Islands (15-10-2020)
  • Joint stakeholders’ submission for the UPR of Kiribati (18-07-2019)

 

Photo Credit: © Gustave Deghilage