Human rights are needed where humans are.

By: Maja Björklund,
Welcome to our blog, the Human Righter. We shed light on contemporary human rights issues and comment on human rights developments. We dig deep into our focus areas within human rights, discuss SDGs and human rights. You will also find book reviews and analyses of new laws.

This blog post was written by Maja Björklund, Intern at RWI


Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental principles in the Human Rights legal framework[1]. Discrimination against women, people with disabilities, minorities and migrants are examples of groups protected by international legal frameworks from any means of discrimination. Inclusion is ultimately about the dignity and worth of the individual person, another core component of Human Rights.

Non-discrimination and inclusion work is required where people live just as human rights are required where humans are. This may seem conspicuous and an already ensured part of our societies, but this is far from reality today. Climate change adds an additional risk of discrimination against people in vulnerable groups or situations. In 2022 the United Nations Human Rights Council published a report stressing the disproportionate risk people in vulnerable groups face in relation to climate change[2]. The report concludes that more than 89 per cent of all disaster displacements of people between the years 2008 and 2020 was caused by natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and storms. Another report published in 2021 by the United Nations Human Rights Council states the increased risk older persons face due to climate change[3]. The report stresses how several climate change impacts excessively affect the lives and health of older persons.

Reading about climate change and how it affects groups of people differently might seem vague and hard to grasp. However, 15 per cent of the people who died in the floods in Germany last year were people from vulnerable groups[4]. In Japan, in 2020, 65 people living in a nursing homes were not evacuated during a flood. Out of these 65 people, 14 died[5]. 72 per cent of the people who died in the extreme heat waves in Montreal in 2018 had chronic conditions. Even more so, 25 per cent of all deceased suffered from schizophrenia even though only representing 0.6 per cent of Montreal’s population in total. The medication people with schizophrenia are prescribed to manage their condition can interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate heat, making them more vulnerable to extreme weather[6]. 75 per cent of the people who died during Hurricane Katarina in America were over 60 years old. As were 70 per cent of the people who died because of the floods in La Plata, Argentina in 2013[7].

The examples above highlight the systematic inequalities within our cities and societies and how climate change adds an additional risk for these people. People who are unable to leave their homes without assistance or quickly enough face disproportionate risks of being left behind. Our societies need a scalable human rights approach to be able to include all humans and ensure their individual human rights. Human rights are needed where humans are.


[1] Equality and Non-discrimination – United Nations and the Rule of Law

[2] A_HRC_50_57_AdvanceEditedVersion.docx (live.com)

[3] G2109923.pdf (un.org)

[4] German Flood Deaths Highlight Climate Change Risks for People with Disabilities | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

[5] Japan’s Deadly Combination: Climate Change and an Aging Society – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[6] Montreal expects more brutal heat waves, vows to improve response | CBC News

[7] G2109923.pdf (un.org)

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