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Statement by Mr. Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, on the 48th session of the Human Rights Council

17 September 2021

Madam Vice-President, distinguished delegates, representatives of civil society, fellow Rapporteurs, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, I have the honour to introduce my annual thematic report, including a summary of my activities. In my report, I examine the intersection of climate action and the right to development, primarily looking at national level efforts.

To collect information about the extent to which rights-holders have been placed at the centre of decision-making processes on climate action, I issued a call for information to States Members of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders, such as international organizations, practitioners, CSOs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks and academics.

A number of countries provided practical examples of ways in which they have integrated the right to development into national climate action. Several civil society actors also provided examples of participatory practices in the area of climate action. I am grateful to all of the countries and other stakeholders that provided inputs for the compilation of the report, thus allowing me to provide examples that may be adapted and used in particular national circumstances, since I recognise that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many stakeholders had to redirect resources.

Already in my vision report in 2017, I identified climate change as one of the adverse global trends that poses a challenge to the implementation of the right to development. The global climate crisis, the increasing number of natural disasters and new global pandemics all have the potential to undo decades of development. Climate change is a global human rights threat multiplier. It already impacts and will increasingly impact a wide range of internationally guaranteed human rights, including the right to development. Extreme weather events, natural disasters, rising sea levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases can impede civil and political rights (the right to life, liberty and property), economic, social and cultural rights (the right to work, education, social security, mental health, adequate food, clothing and housing).

Climate change impacts have already fallen on the most vulnerable parts of the global society—those who have not yet reaped the benefits of development and are not able to shield themselves or adequately recover from the fires and floods aggravated by climate change. Indigenous peoples, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities and women in vulnerable situations are among the groups disproportionately affected by climate change. However, the communities and populations most affected by climate change are oftentimes the ones that do not participate in decision-making processes on actions that address the consequences of climate change.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens resulting from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world's poor are women. Women's unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policymaking and implementation.

Another challenge I identified for persons claiming to have their rights violated by projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions and other climate action, is the absence of adequate transparency and accountability mechanisms for potential violations.

In the face of the climate crisis, governments must design and implement ambitious and comprehensive policies and measures that pave the way for a real and transformative ecological transition. Countries must ensure the right to development by supporting development models that achieve a safe climate and meet the sustainable development goals, including the need to align both production and consumption patterns to sustainable and equitable levels.

In my report, I provide practicable recommendations geared to meet these challenges, in key areas: data collection and disaggregation, human rights and environmental assessments, inclusion, participation and access to information, accountability and remedies.

Further, I wanted to note that next month, as per my mandate, I will present to the UN General Assembly my thematic report which examines the relationship between the right to development and climate change from an international perspective. In that report, I note the challenge that developing countries continue to face due to limited participation, access to information, accountability and remedies, funding, and technology.

Madam Vice-President, ladies and gentleman,

In its resolutions 33/14 establishing and 42/23 extending my mandate, the Human Rights Council requested that I contribute to, and provide views on, the work of the Working Group on the Right to Development. On 17 May 2021, I held an interactive dialogue with the Working Group during its twenty-first session, providing an update on my work. In addition, I stressed the challenges and opportunities faced by the Working Group during the negotiations on the draft legally binding instrument on the right to development. I encouraged Member States to engage in constructive dialogue and noted the numerous positive aspects of the initial draft.

Due to the travel restrictions, related to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was not able to conduct country visits or participate in person in international events. Nevertheless, I participated in several online events related to the right to development, notably in a discussion organized by the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (December 2020). I provided recorded statements for the Social Forum (Geneva, October 2020); the Regional Dialogue on the Pacific of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (January 2021); and the video event entitled "Feminist Climate Action by One and All: Generation Equality, Human Rights and Climate Justice", held on the occasion of Earth Day (22 April 2021).

On 23 February 2021, at a virtual side event to the 46th Council session, entitled: "Establishing synergies between human rights and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: sharing of experiences and good practices", I delivered a statement focused on the importance of sharing concrete experiences and good practices in integrating human rights into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and how international cooperation, particularly South-South cooperation, and capacity-building in the field of human rights can contribute to the 2030 Agenda.

On 9 March 2021, I delivered a key-note address at the virtual meeting on "Supporting Human Rights-based Inclusive Resilience for All", which took place during the seventh Asia-Pacific Adaptation Forum. In this statement, I highlighted the urgent need to look at climate action and disaster risk reduction from a human rights perspective. I recommended that Governments promote channels of participation at all stages of the planning, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of disaster risk reduction and climate action policies and programmes on a continuous basis for all relevant stakeholders, in particular those who are most disadvantaged. On 17 March 2021, I spoke at a virtual side-event to the 46th session of the Council, entitled "The negative impacts of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin on the enjoyment of human rights".

Last but not least, on 6 July 2021, I participated in the high-level political forum on sustainable development. During the session entitled "Ensuring that no one is left behind", I addressed the issues of how to build back from the setback in poverty, unemployment and exclusion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect the poorest and most vulnerable from the crisis and empower them to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. I highlighted the urgent need to include marginalized members of society, such as groups of women, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, internally displaced people, migrants, people with disabilities and the poor, in decision-making processes related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

I thank you all for your kind attention.