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Dystopia Is Here

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has declared that humanity does not need “more warnings” about climate change, as “the dystopian future has already arrived,” and called for “urgent action” to address it.

Making the traditional “global update” of the state of human rights in the world, at the opening session of the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which runs from the 11th of September to the 13th of  October in Geneva, Switzerland, Volker Türk dedicated the beginning of his intervention to climate change, which, he stressed, “is pushing millions of people into hunger, and destroying hopes, opportunities, homes and lives.”

“In recent months, urgent warnings have become lethal realities, time and time again, around the world. We don’t need any more warnings. The dystopian future has arrived. We need urgent action, now. And we know what to do. The real question is: What stops us?”

The High Commissioner’s remarks come immediately after the G20 meeting held at the weekend in New Delhi, which resulted in a new failure to combat climate change, given the division within the group – which accounts for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions – over oil, which prevented a final joint declaration calling for the abandonment of fossil fuels.

During his speech, Türk highlighted the current dramatic situation in the Sahel, also linking it to the phenomenon of climate change.

“Across the Sahel, most people struggle for daily survival, with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger among the eight least developed countries in the world. These countries are severely affected by environmental degradation and climate change – a crisis to which they have contributed virtually nothing,” he noted.

“The resources needed for survival, such as fertile land and water, are dwindling, giving rise to conflicts between communities.”

“The adaptation measures they so urgently need are too costly and the financial support they are regularly promised at international conferences is too slow, and 2022 was the deadliest year since the Sahel crisis began a decade ago,” he said, warning that “the constant threat of violence by armed groups is now expanding to coastal states.”

“None of the challenges facing these countries can be addressed in isolation as they are interconnected. Climate change, including droughts and associated extreme weather events, but also the inability to invest adequately in education, health care, sanitation, social protection, impartial justice, and other human rights,” he said, adding that “decades of poor governance and a lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making are the sources from which violent extremism originates.”

Turk pointed out that “the unconstitutional changes of government that have been witnessed in the Sahel are not the solution,” alluding to the consecutive military coups in the region.

“Instead, we need an urgent shift to civil governance and open spaces where people can participate, influence, monitor, and criticise the government’s actions. Or lack of action” he concluded.

Samantha Gannon

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