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Climate change creating human right needs

Ways in which the upcoming COP climate talks may support the respect of human rights for those forced to flee their countries were explored at a discussion held on 26 October.


The event, titled ‘Climate change, cross-border displacement and human rights: is there a protection gap and will COP 21 help close it?’ was held at the International Environment House in Geneva.


Between 2008 and 2012, 104 million people were displaced due to natural disasters, said Marc Limon, Director of the Universal Rights Group. Climate change increases the risk of impact on human rights, he noted, encouraging debate on what the international community should do in response.


Migration, climate, and human rights need to be examined when addressing cross-border displacement, said Dina Ionesco, Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division at the International Organisation for Migration. Matthew McKinnon, Climate Vulnerable Forum.
Support Specialist at UNDP, meanwhile debated what the role of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms could be.


Ellen Hansen from the UN refugee agency UNHCR presented how her organisation is already addressing climate-related displacement through a number of initiatives, including through involvement in the Nansen Initiative. Its ‘Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change’ identifies the practices necessary to help protect the needs of people displaced across borders following disasters caused by climate change.


Clear and concise language on human rights aspects of climate change were called on to be included in a potential COP deal by John Knox, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.


The roundtable discussion was moderated by Barbara Ruis, Legal Officer at UNEP Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, and was jointly organized by the Universal Rights Group and the Geneva Environment Network together with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, the International Organisation for Migration and the Climate Vulnerable Forum.


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