Climate Change Policies Can Threaten Right to Food, Human Rights Institute Report Argues


Report Says Good Intentions Can Actually Worsen Hunger Problem, Urges Integrating Human Rights into Any Climate Solution
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New York, Dec. 16, 2009 -- Climate change threatens to aggravate the plight of more than one billion people who suffer from severe hunger because policies being considered lack protections for the right to food, says a report issued today by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute.
The report, which was released as the U.N. Climate Change Conference entered its second week, seeks to provide constructive analysis and recommendations to both human rights organizations and climate change institutions in order to prevent further harm.
“While experts readily acknowledge that climate change hits the world’s poorest people hardest,” said Peter Rosenblum, Lieff Cabraser Clinical Professor of Human Rights and Co-Director of the Institute, “little attention is being given to how strategies for coping with climate change also threaten to exacerbate the problem.”
The report suggests that a human rights approach can clarify the problems and offer solutions. The climate change and human rights institutions both share a “core objective” to “protect human dignity for present and future generations,” the report said. But the agendas of both regimes are “growing in isolation” from one another.
“Over the past two decades, human rights has emerged as a common language of ethical obligations, a shared standard of human protection, and a framework for assessing economic and social development,” Rosenblum and Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, write in the report’s foreword. “But it has been largely absent from the climate change discussion.” At the same time, “human rights institutions have only recently started considering climate change as a human rights issue.” 
The recommendations seek to fill the gaps by focusing on three elements necessary for building the right to food into the climate change framework, specifically:
         Collecting information that will enable sophisticated right to food analysis;
         Requiring appropriate individuals and institutions to analyze information in light of the right to food, vet proposals and seek remedies where problems arise.
         Identifying how human rights tools could be relied on or improved to deal with the negative impacts of climate change on the right to food.
The report was researched and written primarily by students of the Human Rights Clinic under the supervision of Rosenblum and De Schutter, who is also a long-term visiting professor at the Law School. It has been published by the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Germany at the urging of De Schutter in support of his U.N. mandate on the right to food.
The right to food covers not only policies that ensure access to adequate food, but also protection from policies that undermine that access, according to the report’s foreword.
De Schutter, who is at the Copenhagen conference, argued it is vital to ensure climate policies protect the poor. “This is not a theoretical debate. There are real cases of violations of the right to food linked to climate policies,” he said.
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