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Climate change is biggest threat to human rights, says UN rights chief

The global climate emergency violates people’s rights in a massive way, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday, September 9, 2019, urging governments to tackle climate-related conflict and poverty, and to hold businesses responsible for their actions.

Michelle Bachelet
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet

In her opening speech at a session of the UN Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Bachelet pointed out that climate change is already increasing hunger, reversing economic development and driving violence and migration.

“The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope,” Bachelet said.

“All people, everywhere, should be able to live in a healthy environment and hold accountable those who stand in the way of achieving it,” she added.

Bachelet cited the example of Africa’s Sahel region, where arable land has been decreasing as the desert expands.

This development had not only fuelled clashes between farmers and herders, but also increased ethnic tensions and extremist violence.

“This is a key area where the international community can – and should – implement solutions to help stem a growing crisis,” Bachelet said.

The UN rights chief also warned that destruction of environments including the Amazon affects the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

In addition, Bachelet urged governments to step up protection for environmental activists, who have been attacked in nearly every world region, especially in Latin America.

“I am disheartened by this violence, and also by the verbal attacks on young activists such as Greta Thunberg and others, who galvanise support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear,” she said.

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