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31st session of the Human Rights Council Panel discussion on climate change and the right to health


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31st session of the Human Rights Council

Panel discussion on climate change and the right to health

Concept note (as of 26 February 2016)



Date and venue:

3 March 2016, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m., Palais des Nations, Room XX, Geneva

(will be broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org)

Objectives:

This panel discussion will address the relationship between climate change and the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The objectives are to:

  • improve understanding of the effects of climate change on enjoyment of the human right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

  • identify the challenges faced by States, civil society, the global health community and other relevant stakeholders in combating the adverse effects of climate change on health

  • explore the added value of rights-based approaches to tackling climate change-related health impacts

  • discuss related policies and highlight lessons learned and good practices

  • identify opportunities and points of entry for greater collaboration with UNFCCC and other key stakeholders

Chair:

H.E. Mr. Choi Kyonglim, President of the Human Rights Council

Opening statement:

Ms. Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

Keynote speaker:

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

Moderator:

H.E. Mr. Trung Thanh Nguyen, Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva

Panellists:

  • Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

  • Dr. Lilibeth C. David, Undersecretary, Department of Health, Philippines

  • Ms. Cristina Tirado, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of California Los Angeles

  • Ms. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad

Outcome:

The panel will provide an opportunity for States, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders to discuss the impact of climate change on the enjoyment of the right to health. The expected outcomes of this discussion are:

  • A deeper understanding of the threats to health from the adverse effects of climate change.

  • Facilitation of effective action to tackle climate change-related health impacts through the exchange of knowledge and good practices between States, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

  • Concrete recommendations for integration of human rights in climate action in the context of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • A summary report of the panel discussion which may inform OHCHR’s analytical study on climate change and the right to health and additional work in this area.

Mandate:

In its resolution 29/15 of 22 July 2015 (entitled “Human rights and climate change”), the Human Rights Council decided to hold, during its thirty-first session, a panel discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on State’s efforts to progressively realize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and related policies, lessons learned and good practices. The resolution further requested OHCHR to prepare, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the enjoyment of the right to health.

Format:

The opening statement, keynote address and initial presentations by the panellists (estimated to take up 1 hour) will be followed by an interactive discussion divided into two slots. The list of speakers for the discussion will be established at the beginning of the panel and, as per practice, statements by high-level dignitaries and groups will be moved to the beginning of the list. States and observers, including representatives of civil society, take the floor for a 2-minute intervention each (total 45 minutes), followed by responses from panellists (15 minutes). A second round of interventions from the floor (45 minutes) will be followed by responses and concluding remarks from the panellists (15 minutes). To make the panel interactive, speakers are encouraged to focus their interventions on the themes of the panellists either by asking the panellists questions or sharing relevant national experience. Interpretation will be provided in the six United Nations official languages.

Background:

Climate change directly and indirectly impacts the full and effective enjoyment of a range of human rights, including the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The Human Rights Council has recognized the threat posed by climate change in numerous resolutions on human rights and climate change and called for human rights to guide and inform all climate action. Resolution 29/15 recognizes that a broad range of human rights are affected by climate change and calls for a specific focus on impacts on the right to health.

This discussion takes place against the backdrop of the recent adoption of the first universal legally binding agreement on climate change in Paris in December 2015. The Preamble to the Paris Agreement states that “parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”. Inclusion of this language in the Paris Agreement reflects growing recognition of the connections between climate change and the enjoyment of human rights, including specifically the human right to health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that the overall health effects of climate change are negative and climate change has strong impacts on the social and environmental determinants of health like clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change found that climate change threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health. Effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and greater frequency of extreme weather events, which directly and indirectly impact health through changes in air pollution, water availability, food insecurity, nutrition, displacement, mental health, and the spread of tropical and vector borne diseases. Such effects are felt most acutely by persons, groups and peoples in vulnerable situations owing to factors such as geography, poverty, gender, age, indigenous and minority status and disability.

In this context, engaging with and addressing climate change-related impacts on health is vital. Approaches based on human rights obligations, standards and principles are critical to understand and address the threat that climate change poses to human health and well-being.



Background documents:

On 21 August 2015, OHCHR transmitted to Member States and other relevant stakeholders a questionnaire requesting inputs for its detailed analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the enjoyment of the right to health. The individual inputs received are available on http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/HRAndClimateChange/Pages/StudyImpact.aspx and a summary of these inputs is contained in document A/HRC/31/CRP.4.

Human Rights Council resolutions on human rights and climate change:



  • Human Rights Council resolution 29/15 (2 July 2015)

  • Human Rights Council resolution 26/27 (27 June 2014)

  • Human Rights Council resolution 18/22 (30 September 2011)

  • Human Rights Council resolution 10/4 (25 March 2009)

  • Human Rights Council resolution 7/23 (28 March 2008)


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