Highlights from RWI engagement at the World Human Rights Cities Forum 2022: Climate Change and Human Rights

Highlights from RWI engagement at the World Human Rights Cities Forum 2022: Climate Change and Human Rights

The World Human Rights Cities Forum 2022 was hosted by the city of Gwangju, from 10th to 13th October. The thematic focus this year was on local human rights in the context of a climate crisis.

RWI, as co-organizer of the Forum, contributed to plenaries and also organised sessions based on RWI’s own work with human rights and climate change from the perspective of local governments and local action.

The Forum started with an Opening Ceremony on 10th October where the Mayor of Gwangju welcomed the speakers and participants and introduced the year’s theme. The RWI Director, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, the Mayor of Santiago Chile and other speakers, then reflected in a round table discussion on the long journey it has been to connect human rights and climate in policy making, and that action often has been lost because of poor communication between national and local levels of government. The RWI Director suggested, with a concrete example, that a systematic integration of human rights and the use of human rights based approaches in local climate mitigation and adaptation, are both important and concretely useful in order to improve the protection of people in the context of climate crisis.

RWI sessions from 11th to 13th October included:

Human Rights in local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, with focus on the built environment. The session was led by Matthew Scott from RWI and Andreia Fidalgo from IHRB and built on research and tools developed by RWI and IHRB on these topics. Key conclusions were that:

  • Systematically considering human rights in land use planning and emergency preparedness at the city level helps to build resilience as it helps authorities to address issues that are often overlooked, such as the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as issues like participation and access to information.
  • Efforts to address the world’s biggest challenges, like inequality and climate change, hinge in many ways on what, where, and how we build, reinforcing the need to integrate rights-based approaches to the built environment. As no single actor can transform the built environment alone, we need to harness their inter-connectedness, power relations, and leverage points to advance rights-based approaches and practice
  • A multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach that includes the private sector and civil society is critical for building resilience.

Human Rights, Corruption and Climate Finance (International Human Rights Policy Session). The session was co-organised by Helena Olsson, RWI and the Embassy of Sweden in the Republic of Korea with Ambassador Daniel Wolvén as moderator. The Mayor of Luleå, Carina Sammeli; the Head of the Independent Evaluation Unit of the Green Climate Fund, Andreas Reumann; and RWI’s expert Morten Koch Andersen addressed the challenging nexus between climate finance and response, risks of corruption, and the respect for and protection of human rights. The session illustrated the importance of a holistic vision in resourcing local climate adaptation plans as well as the importance of transparent budget management. The speakers and discussants stressed in conclusion the importance of:

  • Local ownership and participation, recalling to not act on behalf of others without their representation and say, and to insist on human rights and good governance principles despite the urgency of action or of pressures from investors and other external parties.
  • Municipalities being open to learning, accepting advice and asking for support when needed.
  • Human rights principles and considerations for efficient and effective climate finance that allows communities to adapt and mitigate risks while limiting negative impacts on human rights.

Human Rights Paper session: Developing Human Rights based Solutions for Sustainable, Inclusive and Climate-Resilient Cities. This research focused session was co-organized by RWI Senior Researcher Dr. Alejandro Fuentes, the Chonnan National University, and the Gwangju International Center.

Road to COP27: Integrating Human Rights into Local Adaptation Planning. The session was organized by Windi Arini from RWI Regional Asia Pacific Office. Speakers from RWI, University of Diponegoro in Indonesia, Mayor of Pariaman City in Indonesia, local government representative from Iloilo City in the Philippines, Stockholm Environment Institute, and OHCHR Southeast Asia discussed and identified means and opportunities to integrate human rights into local climate change adaptation. Few points highlighted are:

  • Iloilo City, Philippines adapting green designs with consciousness to varying needs and uniqueness of different groups. The impacts of climate change are felt by communities so it’s easy for city government to engage communities to address this issue, so they can also contribute to find solutions. The city has Iloilo city urban poor office mandated office that monitors the situation of urban poor sector this create a baseline data of most vulnerable and in need which will contribute to city planning.
  • Interpreting human rights principles and norms into local climate adaptation plans will improve the outcome into holistic approach that address economic, social, and political dimensions of climate change.
  • There need to be a funding stream for cities, and they need to be represented in climate negotiations because they are the ones at the forefront in engaging with citizens and climate impacts – but this hasn’t been the case in the last COP26 in Glasgow.

YouthTalk 2.0: Promoting Youth Participation in Local Climate Adaptation Processes. Following the successful implementation of the 1st YouthTalk in 2021, RWI Regional Asia Pacific Office led by Windi Arini and Fatimah Zahrah & Rosalind Ratana from ASEAN Youth Forum facilitated another youth-led session at the 12th WHRCF – YouthTalk 2.0. Following series of workshops and discussions between youth and local governments representatives from Asia and the Pacific, a set of action points on youth participation in the local adaptation processes was presented in the forum. The action plan was used as a point for discussion among panelist members to support youth participation rights in national and local adaptation plans. The following are key points discussed:

  • Representation of wide variety of stakeholders is needed to ensure that viewpoints of those most vulnerable are taken into consideration in the climate adaptation planning processes so that the strategies within the plans will also reflect strategies to reduce such vulnerabilities.
  • Structural barriers that limit participation of various stakeholders especially youth communities in national and local scale initiatives must be dismantled through development and implementation of policy/legal framework that guarantees youth participation.
  • Capacity building for youth communities on climate change and the responses to it particularly on adaptation must be prioritized to ensure youth’s meaningful participation in the processes and to live environmentally conscious lifestyles from a young age.
  • Good Practices of youth participation from Nepal, shared by Mahendra Prasad. “A little example comes from Nepal, around 20% of representatives elected are youth. It is a good symptom for youth in other countries to also participate in the political process.”
  • Good Practices of youth participation from Philippines, shared by Kelvin Mendoza. “There is already a provision in law in the local government code that that the youth sector will be represented in the youth council at the local level and the president of the youth council is part of the legislative council that passes the budgets and the local climate change action plan, the comprehensive development plan.”

In addition, the RWI Jakarta office also conducted two presentation sessions for this year’s participants in the RWI Training for local actors from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Nepal. 14 participants presented their course projects on how to integrate HRBA into local SDGs policies based on steps provided in RWI’s Handbook for Cities. The participants course projects focused on pertinent urban issues, such as, accessible public transportation for persons with disabilities, data collection to support targeted policy development, and child’s rights.

The four-day Forum ended with the Closing Ceremony on 13th October, where organizers and speakers shared reflections and key takeaways from the past days. In his turn, Morten Kjarum reminded everyone that climate change is man-made, and that this brings human rights responsibilities into the picture. He also stressed that many municipalities already are working actively on this, and that there is much to be gained from using HRBA in local governance. In his final words, Morten Kjarum praised the Youth Session and suggested that next year’s Forum should focus on youth.

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