NHRIs are a key voice for climate action, UN General Assembly resolution affirms

Geneva, 19 December 2023 A resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly today has recognised the vital contribution of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including by taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

The resolution highlights the important role of NHRIs “in monitoring, reporting to and advising government bodies and other stakeholders in relation to climate mitigation and adaptation” and promote implementation of international human rights obligations.

At the national level, NHRIs engage with civil society, business, affected communities, and environmental human rights defenders, among others, ensuring their perspectives are heard and inform the advice provided by the NHRI to government and other decision makers.

Through GANHRI, NHRIs also contribute to regional and UN global processes on climate change, such as GANHRI’s recent open letter to leaders attending COP28.

The important contribution of NHRIs to global policymaking on climate action is reflected in GANHRI being officially admitted to the UNFCCC process as an observer organisation.

Led by Germany, the General Assembly resolution was adopted by consensus and with a broad co-sponsorship from States across all regions.

The resolution notes that “change in the Earth’s climate and the ensuing adverse effects have led to economic, social, cultural and environmental consequences and have negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the enjoyment of human rights and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

It calls for States to increase the pace with which Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs are established, noting that NHRIs can help States “fast-track vital protection and other services to those left behind”.

“This resolution recognises the leadership role of NHRIs to respond to the urgent human rights challenges of our day: acting on climate change and delivering sustainable development that benefits all people,” GANHRI Chairperson Maryam Abdullah Al-Attiyah said.

“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Principles by the United Nations, the resolution reaffirms the critical importance of States establishing and strengthening effective, independent, pluralistic and adequately resourced NHRIs,” Ms Al-Attiyah said.

To date, 88 of 193 UN Member States have established Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs. Accelerated progress is needed to guarantee that all States meet the NHRI indicator under Sustainable Goal 16 by 2030.

“NHRIs all over the world do tremendous work to promote and protect human rights. This includes combatting climate change and the negative human rights implications that come with it,” said Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Antje Leendertse.

The General Assembly resolution encourages all relevant UN mechanisms and processes to further enhance NHRI participation in their work and highlights the important contribution of NHRIs in following-up on recommendations made by UN mechanism and processes.

The resolution further states that NHRIs should not face reprisals or intimidation for undertaking work in accordance with their mandate. It calls on States to promptly investigate cases of alleged reprisal and intimidation against NHRI members and staff, or those who cooperate with NHRIs.

The General Assembly resolution notes the important partnership between GANHRI, OHCHR and UNDP to establish, support and strengthen NHRIs, in collaboration with the regional networks of NHRIs in Africa, the Americas, the Asia Pacific and Europe.

It also encourages all relevant UN mechanisms, agencies, funds and programmes to deepen their interaction with Paris Principles-compliant NHRIs, including by sharing information and documentation.

“Strong and strategic collaboration is vital to respond to the urgent human rights challenges we face,” Al-Attiyah said. “GANHRI and its members look forward to deepening our work with UN and civil society partners across the globe, especially to promote human rights-based action on climate change.”