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HFM’s Statement on Human Rights and Climate Change at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
Hon’ble President of Kiribati,
Special Envoy of the Secretary General, Ms. Mary Robinson,
Distinguished panelists, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me applaud the Council for convening this discussion.
Our discussion is timely as the world witnesses growing climatic vulnerabilities and also continue working on wrapping up a robust, legally-binding outcome this December in Paris!

In 2013, UN Secretary General’s High level Global Panel identified ‘climate change’ as one of the five challenges that the world needed to address in making “transformative shifts” over the next decades.

At ‘micro’ level, in the everyday life of millions of our people in an active delta, climate change continues to affect peoples’ lives and livelihoods, significantly. These are not merely issues of ‘development’. These are grave issues of survival for over a billion people world-wide.

As we speak of full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, it would also be important to acknowledge that across countries, communities and people, the capacity and vulnerability of the affected vary, often pretty widely. This relates to the critical issue of ‘equity’ and how we ensure that all people affected by climate change can draw on resources and support measures fairly, equitably and with dignity.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In the contemporary world, the LDCs, SIDS and Africa are recognized to be facing unique circumstances and have special needs. Together, the millions at the ‘bottom of development pyramid’ in these countries are most exposed to climatic shocks in so many ways. Slow onset climate-induced disasters like river erosion, desertification, contamination of groundwater or salinity intrusion inland upstream may not make global headlines, yet these impact people’s living so much. Many are often compelled to move within and beyond borders as a result.
While much of these may be known to us, what we miss out is their cumulative impacts on majority population, their complex vulnerabilities, lack of resilience and coping capacities and the corresponding external support measures that they need.

The aggregate affect is not yet measured for all countries fully. Yet, Bangladesh, for instance, has estimated to loss 2 to 3 percent of GDP owing to climate change impacts, under variable scenario. More importantly, much of the precious social and economic developmental gains run at risk, which clearly threaten the effective and full enjoyment of a range of human rights like the Right to Life, Right to Food, adequate housing, safe and adequate water, access to health and education.

It is therefore logical that human rights perspective should also bring into focus in the context of any climate change negotiations, the fact that climate change hits the poorest of the countries, of peoples, of communities – the most.

In this context, a key issue is the limited ‘capacity – resource endowment – capabilities’ in the developing world, particularly the countries in special needs.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In the vulnerable situations – which often transcend borders – individuals suffer also because of poor resilience and inadequate response-ability to climate change. At the same time, there are countries or people who have much less coping capacities or resources. Consider the Maldives or those in the Pacific. For those countries and low-lying riparian countries like Bangladesh, climate change poses “existential threat”!

Therefore, from the perspectives of millions of ordinary farmers, fishermen, artisans, women, an interface of ‘climate change – human rights’ should ask us to re-look at the elements of injustice, dignity, wellbeing that forms the basis of UDHR.

At a macro or global level,
– how do global community move to break the cycle of low capacity – inadequate technology – lack of resources to effectively adapt to climate change?
– Equity remains an evergreen basis of global governance. But, how do we give effective voice to climate-vulnerable countries ?
– Human rights is about every human person, across countries. then, how do we secure a balance among the consequent disenfranchisement of a farmer in Bangladesh vis-à-vis his peer in the developed world?
o How do we secure an equal appreciation of that Bangladeshi farmer’s issues and needs in the developed world as climate and developmental policies are drawn up ?
o How best do we envision and balance increasingly diverse needs and circumstances of countries, communities, generations and their rights and responsibilities?

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Before concluding, let me convey that though Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries, we have installed around four million Solar Home Systems, one and half million improved Cook Stoves, developed stress-tolerant crop varieties. Being an LDC, we have mobilized US$ 385 million from our own resources for adaptation and mitigation interventions. Out of our commitment to shared responsibility, back in 2012, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged that Bangladesh will pursue a low-carbon growth path.

We remain actively engaged in the global climate negotiations as also in the Human Rights Council. Bangladesh has not only engaged actively with Philippines and other States to advance a focused discussion in the Council, we have also made a modest contribution of 5,000 US dollars to OHCHR for this purpose.

What we are doing is not as a matter of ‘choice’, but out of our commitment to ‘shared responsibility’ for ‘a shared prosperity’.
It is to raise voice of 160 million people.

It is our sincere hope that the international community would step up their commitments and actions resolutely, objectively, make a choice to let the collective conscience speak and let the silent millions fighting climate change, survive.

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