Sparking Action on Human Rights and Climate Change in Southeast Asia

Predictions are that climate change will lead to worsening water and food scarcity. This has a huge impact on people. It means their right to health, water, food, a livelihood, to not be displaced, and in extreme cases, right to life itself, can be infringed. So there is a clear link between human rights and environmental issues.

The Institute has now launched a new regional course in Southeast Asia that brings together nearly 30 participants to learn and discuss the impact that climate change has on human rights.

“We’ve brought this group of judges, corporations and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) together to spark constructive action and collaboration,” says Helena Olsson, director of RWI’s regional office in Jakarta.

Chan Yoon, Regional Counsel, Asia-Pacific & Japan- Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft, Singapore, was one of the participants. “We received very practical knowledge that equips not just someone like me, but also judges and NHRI colleagues here as well, so that we can all go back to become human rights champions in our daily lives. When I go back, I’m going to try think about how Microsoft can be more proactive to enhance human rights in our region and across the world.”

The 3-month course, with its first workshop in Bangkok in July,is jointly organized by RWI, the International Commission of Jurists and the ASEAN CSR Network and forms part of a new regional RWI programme in Asia (2017-2021. The programme is funded by Swedish development cooperation.

“The new program aims to contribute to a just, inclusive and sustainable development in the region through mutually reinforcing protection of human rights, gender equality and the environment,” says Olsson.

Georgina Hidalgo, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Supreme Court of the Phillipines, says the course has changed her perspective. “This workshop made us realize that our duty is not only confined to hearing and deciding cases but in the performance of this duty we too our duty-bound to become human rights defenders and shall develop a deep concern to the environment and to the needs of vulnerable people because justice can only be obtained if everyone is treated fairly and justly.”

This is the third regional blended learning course organized by RWI on the linkages between human rights and environment in Asia. “But it’s the first time we’re inviting corporations and judges into this setting. We’re doing that because corporations have a big stake in the problem and we hope in the solution and judges are central for improving accountability for human rights abuses in this context,” Olsson says.

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