Social Forum

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3rd session of the Social Forum


From 4 to 6 October 2010, the Social Forum on the "Adverse Effects of Climate Change on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights" was convened in Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. H.E. Ambassador Laura Dupuy, Permanent Representative of Uruguay, was appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council to serve as the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Forum.

The 3rd session of the Social Forum focused on:

  • The adverse effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, including the right to life and economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Measures and actions to address the impact of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights at the local, national, regional and international levels with a particular focus on women and children.
  • International assistance and cooperation in addressing the human rights impact of climate change.

The Social Forum discussed the effect climate change has on human rights at a local regional, national and international level by introducing reports and approaches developed by UN REDD, CARE, Refugees International, UNDP, WFP and ITU. The vulnerability of women was especially discussed during the meeting, as it is important to integrate gender equality into the policies and schemes of climate change to further promote human rights.

During this Social Forum, UN REDD described how it works towards reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. By creating a financial value for the carbon stored in standing trees, it makes them more valuable standing than cut down. Another approach presented was financial transfers from industrialized countries to developing countries, which compensates them for avoiding deforestation. Finally, stakeholder engagement, which includes regional consultations with indigenous peoples to secure their rights over resources, was discussed.

Another concern raised during the Social Forum was the increase in hunger due to climate change as agriculture productivity is declining. Weather-related hazards are more frequent and clean water and land is becoming scarce for the most marginalized and impoverished people. WFP estimates that by 2050, there will be a 20% global increase in malnutrition and about 65% of this will occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, WFP has developed twin objectives of enhancing protection and expand access for the most vulnerable through local institutional building and the enabling and empowering of community actors.

CARE discussed the vulnerability of women, as gender roles and other factors put women at a great disadvantage during natural disasters. Due to the unequal rights to schooling, housing, property, knowledge, decision-making and services in general, women's death rates are much higher than that of men. Thus, CARE integrated gender equality and women's empowerment by tracking underlying causes of vulnerability and adopting schemes. CARE is hopeful that this approach will transform activities from being male dominated to female friendly. CARE, moreover, promotes development on a local level by using local knowledge to decide appropriate actions and schemes in combating climate change. Another proposal by CARE is to build resilience into villages by promoting microfinance, capacity-building and improving infrastructure and education.


Refugee International, moreover, spoke about the need to increase rights for refugees and create long-term solutions to handle the increase in refugees brought on by climate change. For example, with this year's flooding in Pakistan, it has affected 20 million people and damaged or destroyed 1.8 million homes. The natural disaster is in fact worse than the 2004 tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti this year and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan combined. Climate change is rapidly increasing conflict over scarce resources and speeds up urbanization, migration and displacement. Consequently, Refugees International hopes for greater international solidarity and attention to focus on secondary impacts such as agricultural failures, the reintegration of people and human vulnerability that follow natural disasters long after the media has left.

In closing, ITU discussed the need to transfer technology and knowledge between the industrialized world and the developing world. A new model for sustainable development could also be created by using ICTs, ensuring everyone has access to basic services, "best practices" through e-agriculture and e-environment, and monitoring services for climate change. Instead of creating a digital exclusion through the use of ICTs, they could help promote services, education, good governance and development.

Laura Dupuy, the Chairperson-Rapporteur concluded by stating that individuals must be put in the centre of the climate change debate. A human rights approach to climate change would help the most vulnerable by focusing on states' human rights obligations and international solidarity.

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