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Supporting action on environmental rights and climate change

Graphic: A boat is tied to a tree in the water at a beach

One of the most urgent issues facing communities in South-East Asia and the Pacific is the impact of climate change and environmental damage. Environmental pollution, rising sea levels, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss are already having a profound impact on fundamental human rights. 

As a changing climate increases the risk of natural disasters, NHRIs are increasingly supporting communities in their efforts to respond and adapt. They are also working to promote and protect the rights of groups that can be especially vulnerable to changes, including women, children, people with disabilities, internally displaced persons and indigenous peoples.

Commissioners listen to evidence at the national inquiry public hearing, Manila

In 2018, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines launched a landmark national inquiry into carbon polluting companies, a changing climate and human rights. The inquiry was the first of its kind in the world and collected evidence at public hearings held in the Philippines, New York and London.

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Environmental rights and climate change have also been a priority for regional inter-governmental mechanisms in South-East Asia and the Pacific. For example, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has been developing a rights-based regional framework for environmental impact assessment in South-East Asia.

In the Pacific, human rights-based approaches have been incorporated into the Pacific Framework for Resilient Development. In addition, Pacific leaders continue to lead calls for the international community to take urgent action on climate change, including the recent establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change.

Graphic: Farmer stands in the distance in a rice field, Indonesia

“A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is the foundation of human life. But today, because of human action – and inhuman inaction – the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and nature loss is directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights … As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era.”

Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Collaborating for change

Our project will develop a foundation for engagement and collaboration between NHRIs and inter-governmental mechanisms.

We will facilitate roundtable discussions in South-East Asia and in the Pacific to examine the issues and identify potential areas for collaboration, with the goal of supporting communities respond to the human rights impacts of environmental harm and a changing climate. 

Through a series of strategic national activities, selected NHRIs will conduct research and engage with communities and other key stakeholders. They will share their information and analysis with their inter-governmental mechanism and discuss policy and planning measures that best respond to the issues they identify. This will form the basis for a joint outcomes paper.

European Union logo

The project is funded by the European Union and supports the APF’s efforts to build stronger NHRIs and work collaboratively to address human rights challenges at the national, regional and international levels.

Image credits

  1. A boat is tied to a tree in the water at a beach - Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash
  2. Commissioners listen to evidence at the national inquiry public hearing, Manila - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  3. Farmer stands in the distance in a rice field, Indonesia - Sandy Zebua on Unsplash
  4. European Union logo - European Union