2020 Annual Conference

The 2020 Annual Conference brought together NHRIs, UN partners and experts from across the globe.
It was an opportunity to consider the role and contributions of NHRIs in addressing the human rights impacts of climate change.

More than 160 participants shared practical strategies that could NHRIs employ to protect and promote human rights in the context of a changing climate.
A statement on climate change and NHRIs was adopted at the conclusion to the conference.

Findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as resolutions of the Human Rights Council showed that a human rights-based approach leads to more sustainable and effective climate action. In February 2020, the Secretary General released his Call to Action, which seeks to put human rights at the centre of the UN and its operations.

In relation to climate change, the Call to Action specifically highlights the role and contributions of NHRIs in addressing the human rights impacts of climate change and calls on UN coordinated support to NHRIs.

NHRIs have a critical role to play: you are independent, you are that voice advocating for human rights,
for climate justice and for international equity. You are agents of change.

Inger Anderson, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme, UNEP

The Annual Conference gathered NHRIs from all regions but also experts and high-level panelists representing our partners OHCHR, UNDP and UNEP.

The discussion evolved around three main talking points:

  • Integrating human rights in national climate commitments, policies and laws
  • Supporting climate litigation
  • Monitoring and reporting processes related to human rights and climate change.

Below are case studies of challenges and good practices presented by NHRIs from the four regions at the 2020 Annual Conference.

The consequences for Malaysia in the coming decade and beyond will be dramatic, and the worst hit will be on those already living in poverty. SUHAKAM will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders including the international human rights mechanism to address the issues of climate change and the environment in Malaysia and help address its negative human rights impacts.

NHRI Malaysia

In Morocco, the NHRI devoted a section in its 2019 annual report where it addressed climate change and its impacts on human rights. The report showed how despite the efforts made by government at the level of public policies, some laws being used are old, which makes them not in line with developments related to environmental protection, and especially climate change.

NHRI Morocco

“Our NHRI, through strategic litigation, has contributed to combating climate change, encouraging public institutions and civil society to orient their conduct towards more resilient and sustainable practices.”

NHRI Bolivia

Outcome Statement: NHRIs and climate change

Outcome Statement: NHRIs and climate change

Participating NHRIs adopted an Outcome Statement at the end of the conference. The Statement serves as a reference point and guide for NHRIs’ individual and collective actions on climate change.

NHRIs commit to contributing to climate action efforts, in line with human rights obligations and principles of non-discrimination and participation, at the national, regional and international levels.


NHRIs have tremendous potential to influence governments to accelerate climate action through
monitoring and reporting impacts of climate change on human rights through climate litigation and by informing policy

David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Conclusion and way forward

Climate change and its human rights impact is a strategic priority for GANHRI and its members moving forward. NHRIs from all world regions are applying their mandates and functions, to monitor and report on human rights impacts, advise their states on human rights-based climate action, engage with communities and rights holders, and hold to account.

GANHRI provides a global platform for NHRIs to exchange experiences, discuss strategies, and collectively through GANHRI engage in global climate action. GANHRI is encouraged by UN system-wide support to GANHRI’s climate change activities moving forward. GANHRI will continue to support NHRIs to make progress on these commitments and pursuing the work in strengthening the existing fruitful partnerships with the UN system in order to assist and encourage the work of NHRIs across the world.


NHRIs can help promote much more effective, informed and participatory climate action – action that can both benefit people’s rights and preserve our environment.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

NHRIs serve at the frontline as human rights defenders to liaise with. UNDP has supported over 100 NHRIs across the globe
to enhance their ability to defend, promote and protect the right to a healthy environment.

Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP

All exchanges, contributions and video statements given by NHRIs during the Annual Conference are available on the SharePoint site set up for the event. If you wish to access the SharePoint site, please contact webinars@ganhri.org and include your email, NHRI and position.