Human rights must be at forefront of COP28 summit in UAE: UN expert
Lawlor said it was essential that human rights defenders and civil society are permitted to play a full role in COP28.
Human rights and those who defend them must be at the forefront of the COP28 summit which begins today in the United Arab Emirates, a UN expert said today.
“There have been too many occasions in the past where decisions have been made without representation of those who are most impacted by them,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor. “I urge authorities in the UAE to ensure that human rights defenders representing the rights of the most marginalised and most at risk from the climate crisis are meaningfully involved in the negotiations next week,” she said.
COP28, which will take place between 30 November and 12 December, will see stakeholders gather in Dubai to assess what progress has been made in relation to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Lawlor said it was essential that people be permitted to voice their concerns or criticisms of the human rights impacts both of climate change and measures designed to mitigate climate change, which ignore the effects on rights holders. “States must recognise that human rights and climate justice are two sides of the same coin, and if we exclude or silence those who are warning us about human rights risks, we will fall into the same trap as before of designing a new framework of living for the few, rather than for the many,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Lawlor said it was essential that human rights defenders and civil society are permitted to play a full role in COP28. For this to happen however, the expert noted that the UAE would need to rescind restrictive legislation it has in place which limits the space for freedom of expression, association and assembly in the country. Furthermore, she urged the UAE to avoid adopting similar measures conducted against civil society at COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, where environmental human rights defenders and civil society activists were subjected to intimidation, harassment and surveillance. For the sake of transparency, the host country agreement should be made publicly available, the expert said.
“I urge the UAE to use its moment in the global spotlight to show that it respects human rights,” Lawlor said. She said the UAE could send a strong signal immediately by releasing human rights defenders in its prisons who have already served their full sentences.
“As this year is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, it would be fitting,” the expert said.