Why Empowering National Human Rights Institutions Helps on the Quest for Healthy Earth?

On March 2020, over 330 students, women champions, government
officials, NGO members and community members from around Kampot and
Kep gathered in an effort to plant 3,000 mangroves and conserve
Cambodia’s coastline. The local activity took place as part of a
larger mangrove planting and marine exhibition under Action Aid’s
100,000 Mangroves campaign, supported by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) under the project ‘Strengthening
Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Cambodia’. The
campaign aims to plan 100,000 mangroves in eight community
fisheries by May 2020, and raise awareness of the importance of
marine ecosystems. Credit: ManuthButh/UNDP Cambodia

By Claudia Ituarte-Lima
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, Mar 24 2020 (IPS)

We are living in a critical time. As we face existential
environmental challenges from climate crises to the mass extinction
of species, it is difficult sometimes to see solutions and new
ideas. This is why we all need to celebrate and give visibility to
creative and courageous efforts of people and organizations
striving towards a healthy planet for all.

I write today about the key role played by National Human Rights
Institutions (NHRIs) in the Global South in our collective fight
against climate change. The time has come to empower NHRIs.

Their unique position mandated by law yet independent from the
government can make an urgent needed bridge between legal and
policy advances, and ground-up efforts such as youth and women
movements, thereby contributing to the enjoyment of the right to a
healthy environment.

I have recently had the chance of learning real-world success
stories by brave NHRIs working in some of the most challenging
contexts. While being a member of the facilitators’ team of a
series of webinars* for technical staff and decision-makers working
in NHRIs and prior face-to-face interaction with them, it became
crystal clear that strengthening the skills and capacities of NHRIs
can contribute positive outcomes for both human rights and the

In Mongolia, for instance, the NHRI with the support of civil
society organizations and environmental researchers has recently
developed a draft law for safeguarding the rights of environmental

The NHRIs have also intervened in a variety of sectoral issues
from pesticides and agriculture in Costa Rica, to mining in South
Africa and the connections between coal mining and transportation
in Mongolia. The Morocco NHRI has prompted other African NHRIs and
civil society organizations to actively participate in
international climate negotiations.

Business and human rights was a key issue raised by our NHRIs

Nazia, 38, proudly shows off her home-grown tomatoes in
Nadirabad village, Pakistan. She participated in kitchen gardening
training offered under the joint UNDP-EU Refugee Affected and Host
Areas (RAHA) Programme in Pakistan. Credit: UNDP Pakistan

The significant legal, institutional and financial obstacles
that national duty bearers face to investigate transnational
corporations and their responsibilities concerning their impacts to
a safe climate has not proved insurmountable for NHRIs.

The Philippine’s NHRI has a mandate to promote human rights
which, creatively interpreted, allowed it to investigate the
climate change and human rights nexus beyond its national

The systemic nature of climate change justified a national
inquiry rather than a field visit. Because climate change is an
existential issue not only to Filipino people but globally, the
Philippines national inquiry on climate change turned into an
inquiry with strong global dimensions.

It included public hearings in the Philippines, New York and
London, virtual hearings and expert advice from the former UN
Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, academics from
different parts of the world and the Asia-Pacific regional network
of NHRIs.

A major comparative advantage presented by the NHRIs is their
unique position in working hand in hand with right holders in
addressing environmental – human rights gaps facing the most
vulnerable populations.

Costa Rica NHRI has found, for instance, that women, girls, men
and boys and elder living in coastal areas become especially
vulnerable to climate change because their access to clean drinking
water and fish become scarce.

The South African NHRI together with food sovereignty civil
society organizations has developed a draft climate charter, to be
presented to the parliament, with a more holistic approach to the
current climate policy.

In recent years, the awareness of the linkages between human
rights and climate change has greatly increased. The legal
recognition of the right to a healthy environment in more than 150
countries, together with judicial decisions, and academic studies
on the safe climate dimension of this right has grown rapidly.
NHRIs can be instrumental in translating them into results and
action, including under difficult circumstances.

Their role in advising duty bearers, working together with
right-holders helps to understand and act upon systemic
environmental challenges. Their synergies with environmental human
rights defenders can also contribute to more effective
investigation and advocacy, not least in the context of informal
and unregulated business activities where it is especially
difficult to collect data and hold businesses accountable.

Time has come for the international community to do more to
support NHRIs in the Global South, a key player often overlooked in
climate and biodiversity talks, debates and funding. Due to the
intrinsic connections between human rights and environment, the
NHRIs need to be further supported to perform their innovative
roles in safeguarding life-support systems at various
jurisdictional scales, including advocating for the global
recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the United

* The series was organized by the Global Alliance for National
Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), UNDP, the UN Special Rapporteur
on Human Rights and the Environment, the Swedish Environmental
Protection Agency and UN Environment. A final report with key
messages from the webinar series is available on the UNDP

The post
Why Empowering National Human Rights Institutions Helps on the
Quest for Healthy Earth?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Claudia Ituarte-Lima, Stockholm University, Sweden and
University of British Columbia, Canada

Claudia Ituarte-Lima is researcher on international environmental
law at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and affiliated senior
researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and
Humanitarian Law. She is currently a visiting researcher at the
Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University
of British Columbia. She holds a PhD from the University College
London and a MPhil from the University of Cambridge.

The post
Why Empowering National Human Rights Institutions Helps on the
Quest for Healthy Earth?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Why Empowering National Human Rights Institutions Helps on the Quest for Healthy Earth?