Copenhagen: To respect human rights, States must find an agreement which is fair, ambitious and binding

With only a few days to go before the summit of Copenhagen on climate change, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has launched its final call1 for governments and heads of states to commit to an agreement which is fair, ambitious and binding.

Climate change represents a major challenge for international human rights. Therefore FIDH wishes to contribute to the debate on sustainable development with the idea of a new model respectful of human rights and the environment. We need to act now.

Human Rights Defenders who strive for respect for human rights for all and everywhere, cannot remain silent in front of the obvious impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights and in particular of economic, social and cultural rights: : the right to health, water and food are already affected. Worse still, we know that the changes will first and foremost affect the most vulnerable populations in the poorest countries. There is a real risk of seeing the numbers of internal and international migrants, whose rights are systematically overridden in the Northern and the Southern hemisphere increase.

Climate change further challenges the instruments and mechanisms available for the protection of human rights in a world that is constantly becoming more and more interdependent. In the context of economic and financial globalisation, we have to rethink the boundaries of states’ individual and collective responsibilities and those of other actors. States’ responsibilities with regard to human rights does not end at their borders and their extraterritorial responsibilities need to be reinforced. Furthermore, it is important to regulate non-state actors’ activities, as businesses’ strive for profit only too often leads to environmental degradation and a wide range of human rights abuses.

For all of the aforementioned reasons, the Human Rights organisations which are part of the North- South solidarity movement should contribute to thinking of a different development which will allow for improvement of living conditions for the poorest populations whilst simultaneously fighting against climate change. The final agreement in Copenhagen has to allow all to participate equally in this fight depending on their means and their responsibilities. The measures to fight against climate change must be in line with social justice and may not penalise the poor.

Today it is common knowledge that the fight for preserving the environment and protecting the balance of our planet is not incompatible with the demands and the constraints of development. On the contrary, the current model jeopardises the possibility for Southern states to obtain the welfare to which they aspire.

FIDH believes that it is impossible to separate the fight against climate change and the fight to end poverty. Copenhagen is an essential chance to take things into our hands to create fairer relationships between states in the Northern and Southern hemisphere and between states and their citizens. It is time for all of us, ecologists, those working in development, trade union activists and human rights defenders, to unite in order to make our voices heard.

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