GANHRI symposium deepens collaboration on human rights and climate change

Tuesday 5th December, 09:00-17:00 GST  – In Dubai and Online on Zoom

As the world’s attention was focused on Dubai for COP28, GANHRI seized the moment to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders – including NHRIs, UN agencies, civil society and environmental experts – for a high-level symposium on human rights and climate change.

Held on 5 December 2023 in Dubai and online, more than 70 participants explored a series of issues facing communities and countries and discussed strategies to ensure that human rights considerations are at the forefront of climate action.

The symposium began with a discussion of the vital role of NHRIs to support and strengthen communities disproportionately affected by climate change. From displaced populations to indigenous peoples, and from youth to environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs), NHRIs shared a range of strategies from grassroots engagement to legal actions against human rights-infringing projects.

The experiences and protection of EHRDs was another priority topic, with speakers underscoring the need for NHRIs to take practical steps to safeguard civic space and monitor the well-being of those at the forefront of climate action. Drawing on GANHRI’s Global Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders, the symposium emphasised the importance of promoting positive community perceptions of EHRDs and ensuring their ability to exercise environmental rights, free from retaliation.

Participants also discussed the impact of climate litigation and national inquiries. The field of climate litigation is rapidly expanding, with international advisory opinions poised to influence domestic cases. NHRIs are increasingly involved in new litigation areas, including holding the private sector accountable, as demonstrated by the National Inquiry on Climate Change conducted by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. Institutions like the Norwegian Institute for Human Rights not only make third-party interventions but also support the European NHRI network’s efforts to present cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Participants underscored the potential for cross-border cooperation among NHRIs and stressed the importance of collaborating with climate scientists.

The symposium considered questions related to business and human rights, with a focus on the challenges posed by climate change. This issue is particularly pressing for communities in the Global South, with many facing significant human rights challenges due to the shift towards renewable energy sources. One example is the mining of minerals necessary for renewable technologies, which can have devastating effects for local populations.

The work of NHRIs in the sectors of agriculture and fisheries also received attention. NHRIs play a crucial role in bridging the gap between businesses and various stakeholders and have been urged to take an active stance to protect communities. This support extends to promoting responsible business practices, including conducting impact assessments and providing avenues for redress in case of grievances.

Participants reiterated the importance of addressing other critical issues, such as loss and damage, the impact of business on carbon markets, the protection of civic spaces, and opinions issued by the International Court of Justice.


Moving forward: GANHRI’s continued advocacy and support

The symposium concluded by spotlighting GANHRI’s COP28 letter, underscoring its significance as a key advocacy tool for NHRIs. In addition, GANHRI’s survey of NHRIs revealed a pressing need among members for additional capacity-building initiatives on human rights and climate change, including training sessions, peer-learning platforms, guidance on best practices, and access to funding opportunities to bolster their ongoing efforts.

The GANHRI Climate Change Caucus is set to play a pivotal role to mobilise NHRIs and advocate on behalf of NHRIs, with a number of activities planned for 2024. The active participation of NHRIs in global climate discussions – engaging with governmental bodies, contributing through submissions, and participating in Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings – remains crucial.