RWI at COP26

Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Human Rights

The climate crisis has become one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. It  threatens lives and livelihoods. It worsens inequalities and deepens precarity. Adapting to climate change is no longer a choice. It is a necessity. States, countries, must adapt to save lives, to enhance resilience and to protect human rights. They must make sure that they integrate not only mitigation measures but also add adaptation plans as a response to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  warned, in its latest report, that the adverse effects of climate change are hitting us faster than anticipated. Some of these changes in our climate are “irreversible”. There is no turning back. We therefore must act now. 

We spread knowledge on and promote a human rights based approach to climate change. This, we believe, is the way forward for just and fair adaptation to climate change. To help connect the dots between climate change and human rights, we hosted a side event at the Nordic Pavilion during COP26; “Pathways to Just and Fair Adaptation: A Rights-Based Approach to Climate Action”.

Climate change directly impacts human rights. Measures that we use to mitigate or adapt to climate change can also negatively impact human rights. Therefore it is key to use a rights-based approach not only to protect people, but also to make sure actions we undertake to respond to climate change, also safeguard human rights.

The COP26 Workshop: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Human Rights

With our workshop at COP26, we aimed to stimulate and deepen discussions on climate change and human rights. We also wished to stimulate the audience in identifying potential initiatives related to human rights, climate change adaptation, and healthy eco-systems that can help ensure a just transition that protect rights of people – while building social-ecological resilience.

Screening ‘The Last Breath of Tonle Sap‘: First-Hand Experiences of Climate Change

We started out by screening a short but eye-opening movie – “The Last Breath of Tonle Sap”,  Cambodia, produced by Thomas Christopheletti and Robin Narcisso. The directors won the RWI Asia Pacific Award at the Mini Kino film week 7 in 2021. The film showcases the first-hand experiences of a fishing family living on the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake. The lake has been their source for life for generations. But, life is becoming increasingly difficult as the lake does not provide as it used to. The family deals with climate change and other environmental challenges. The members of the fworry that they will not have enough food for everyone. Food insecurity and socio-economic challenges as just some of the many issues that they are experiencing.

Reflection: See the film and take a moment to reflect. What rights are being violated as a result of climate change, according to you?

sumudu atapattu on climate change and lawPresentation: The Relation Between Climate Change and Human Rights

Following the screening of the film, we invited our affiliate researcher Sumudu Atapattu, to help us all connect the dots between human rights and climate change. In her presentation she shares what effects climate change have, what the link between climate change and human rights is as well as how human rights obligations relate to climate change. She talks about the most important legal frameworks and discusses a few  important important features of the Paris Agreement, 2015.


nicole anschell SEIPresentation: A Human Rights Based Approach for National Adaptation Planning (NAPs)

How can a rights based approach be integrated into national adaptation planning?  Ms. Nicole Anchsell SEI, former research associate at SEI, the Stockholm Environment Institute and current grant manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council draws from the initial findings of RWIs and SEIs joint research and shares how it is crucial to use a HRBA when making national adaptation plan, why and how.


Scenario Activity: What Rights are Affected?

We presented a scenario related to climate induced displacement and relocation and their effects on human rights. Download the scenario and discuss with your peers!


Missed the event? Check it out!

On YouTube

Young Voices from COP

We talked to youth organisations from all over the world to find out how they felt about being at COP, why they were there and what they hoped that the summit would bring.

See what they thought.

Download the brief: Pathways to Just and Fair Adaptation

While human rights principles and obligations should inform action under the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they have not been meaningfully integrated into the NAP – National Adaptation Planning – processes. Human rights principles are often overlooked in the implementation of adaptation programmes. To address this gap, we, SEI and RWI, propose a rights-based approach to NAP – National Adaptation Plans processes, drawing upon and consolidating existing formulations. The approach that we suggest consists of six elements.To see which, download and read our brief.

Pathways to Just and Fair Adaptation

victor bernard at COP

For a Just and Sustainable Development

We, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute,  started working in Asia 25 years ago. Since then, the activities that we undertake have turned into a regional programme that aims to strengthen the mutually reinforcing protections of human rights, gender equality and the environment to achieve just inclusive and sustainable development.

Three thematic areas

We work across three thematic streams encompassing human rights and environment, localising SDGs and human rights as well as the thematic area ‘people on the move’.

Among other things, we have published series of research papers on human rights and environment including the thematic study on the right to healthy environment in Southeast Asia. We have  spearheaded a number of capacity building initiatives such as our blended learning courses on human rights and environment and climate change that have reached over 150 representatives from the government courts the private sectors private sector and universities across Asia and the Pacific.

Victor Bernard, Programme Officer, is RWIs main focal point on issues related to human rights and environment in Asia and the Pacific. He leads the research initiative on ‘human rights and national adaptation plans together with SEI – The Stockholm Environment Institute. The research has culminated in the Discussion brief [download here] entitled ‘pathways to just and fair adaptation – a rights-based approach to national adaptation plans’. It gives state and non-state actors in the adaptation field guidance on integrating a right based approach to climate change adaptation.

This event was supported and financed by Sida, the Swedish International Development Agency.

Read more about our Regional Asia Pacific Programme [RAPP] 
Read more about what we do within the thematic area Human Rights & the Environment 

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