On 29 November 2023, ahead of the deadline on 30 November, CPA submitted its comments to the African Union’s proposed study on the impact of climate change on human and peoples’ rights in Africa.
The Climate Peace Alliance (CPA) applauds the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) for undertaking this timely and critical study on the adverse consequences of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights in Africa. Climate change poses a significant threat to human rights, exacerbating existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and disproportionately impacting marginalized groups. This study provides a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the complex linkages between climate change and human rights, particularly in the African context.
Section I: Overview of Climate Change and Its Adverse Consequences in Africa
CPA concurs with the study’s assessment that climate change is already having a profound impact on Africa, with rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events becoming more frequent and severe. These impacts are already disrupting livelihoods, displacing communities, and exacerbating food insecurity, water scarcity, and health risks. This is in consonance with some of CPA’s previous research in this area. See for example:
CPA will now do a section-by-section analysis of the draft report in order to provide specific comments that address other parts of the study.
Section II: Adverse Consequences of Climate Change on Vulnerable Groups
CPA particularly commends the study’s emphasis on the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable groups, such as women, children, indigenous peoples, displaced persons, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and youth.
These groups often face additional barriers to accessing resources, adapting to climate change, and participating in decision-making processes.
However, CPA believes that the study could have done more to highlight the specific challenges faced by women, children, indigenous peoples, displaced persons, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and youth in adapting to climate change and protecting their human rights. More research and analysis is needed to better understand the unique vulnerabilities of these groups and develop tailored interventions to address them. In this regard, we now propose the following recommendations on this section of the study:
- Conduct more in-depth research and analysis to better understand the specific vulnerabilities faced by women, children, indigenous peoples, displaced persons, persons living with disabilities, older persons, and youth in adapting to climate change and protecting their human rights.
- Develop tailored interventions and programs that address the unique needs of these vulnerable groups, ensuring that they are adequately supported and empowered to cope with the impacts of climate change.
- Promote gender-sensitive and inclusive policies and practices that recognize the differential impacts of climate change on women and girls.
Section III: Implications for Selected Rights Guaranteed under Key Instruments
CPA strongly agrees with the study’s analysis of the implications of climate change for selected rights guaranteed under key instruments in the African human rights system, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). Climate change poses a threat to a wide range of rights, including the right to life, the right to food, the right to water, the right to health, the right to housing, and the right to education.
While the study provides a comprehensive overview of the potential implications of climate change for selected human rights, it could have further explored the broader impact on the overall enjoyment of human rights in Africa. Climate change can exacerbate existing inequalities and undermine the foundations of a just and equitable society. A more holistic analysis is needed to fully capture the multifaceted human rights implications of climate change. For this reason, we now propose the following recommendations:
- Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the broader impact of climate change on the overall enjoyment of human rights in Africa, including the potential for exacerbating existing inequalities and undermining the foundations of a just and equitable society.
- Develop strategies to mainstream human rights considerations into climate change policies and programs at all levels, ensuring that they are aligned with the African Charter and other relevant human rights frameworks.
- Strengthen collaboration between human rights organizations and climate change experts to ensure that human rights perspectives are adequately incorporated into climate change discussions and decision-making processes.
Section IV: Potential Implications of Climate Response Measures
CPA recognizes that climate response measures, while necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change, can also have unintended negative consequences for human rights. It is crucial to ensure that climate response measures are developed and implemented in a rights-based manner, prioritizing the needs and perspectives of vulnerable groups.
CPA acknowledges the importance of ensuring that climate response measures are implemented in a rights-based manner. However, the study could have provided more specific guidance on how to operationalize this principle in practice.
This includes ensuring that climate response measures are adequately informed by the perspectives of vulnerable groups, involve meaningful community participation, and prioritize human rights in decision-making processes. As such, we propose the following recommendations:
- Develop clear guidelines and standards for ensuring that climate response measures are implemented in a rights-based manner, prioritizing the needs and perspectives of vulnerable groups.
- Promote meaningful community participation and consultation in the development and implementation of climate response measures, ensuring that the voices of frontline communities affected by climate change are heard and considered.
- Establish independent monitoring mechanisms to assess the human rights impacts of climate response measures and hold states accountable for their obligations under the African Charter.
Section V: Obligations of States under the African Charter
CPA emphasizes the obligations of states under the African Charter to protect, promote, and fulfill human rights in the context of climate change. States must take proactive measures to address the adverse consequences of climate change and ensure that all individuals have access to essential resources and services.
CPA agrees that states have a responsibility to protect, promote, and fulfill human rights in the context of climate change. However, the study could have been more explicit in outlining the specific obligations of states under the African Charter and how these obligations can be translated into concrete actions. This includes providing clear guidance on how states can integrate human rights considerations into their climate change policies and strategies. We therefore recommend that the study:
- Provides clear and specific guidance to states on how to translate their obligations under the African Charter into concrete actions to protect, promote, and fulfill human rights in the context of climate change.
- Encourages states to develop national human rights action plans that address the specific challenges posed by climate change.
- Supports the establishment of national human rights institutions with adequate resources and capacity to monitor and protect human rights in the context of climate change.
Section VI: Role of the African Commission
CPA commends the African Commission for its role in promoting and protecting human rights in Africa. The Commission has a crucial role to play in holding states accountable for their obligations in the context of climate change and providing a forum for individuals and communities affected by climate change to seek redress.
CPA recognizes the important role of the African Commission in promoting and protecting human rights in Africa. However, the study could have provided more specific recommendations for the Commission on how to effectively fulfill its mandate in the context of climate change. This includes strengthening its monitoring and reporting mechanisms, providing stronger guidance and support to states, and engaging more actively with civil society organizations to address the climate justice and human rights challenges facing Africa. We recommend the following measures:
- Strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanisms of the African Commission to ensure that it is effectively tracking and documenting the human rights impacts of climate change in Africa.
- Provide stronger guidance and support to states in developing and implementing human rights-based climate change policies and strategies.
- Foster stronger collaboration between the African Commission and civil society organizations to address the climate justice and human rights challenges facing Africa.
Overall, CPA commends the African Commission for undertaking this valuable study and raising awareness of the critical linkages between climate change and human rights in Africa. However, CPA believes that the study should be strengthened by addressing the concerns raised above. By providing a more comprehensive and nuanced analysis, the study would have a more significant impact on promoting human rights and climate justice in Africa. Climate change is a complex and multifaceted challenge with far-reaching implications for human rights in Africa. The African Commission’s study, if improved as proposed, will provide a valuable foundation for understanding these linkages and developing effective responses.
At CPA, we work at the intersection of climate justice and violent conflicts, and are committed to working with the African Commission and other diverse stakeholders to address climate justice and human rights challenges facing Africa. We work at the systems level of policy advocacy and grassroots mobilization for action. We prioritize the use of peaceful and collaborative efforts to address climate injustice and conflicts, and create harmonious and sustainable communities.
Please accept the assurances of our highest esteem.
Bakare Executive Director