Climate change implications already impacting on the human rights of Solomon Islanders

THE Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, the Hon Manasseh Sogavare, last week made a call to the United States to reconsider its position on the Paris climate agreement and join the global fight against climate change.

The Prime Minister made the statement in his address to the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

He said climate change is the Pacific’s biggest enemy and could have far-reaching impacts.

The Prime Minister called on the UN Security Council to address the issue of climate change as it threatens global peace and security.

“We call on all major emitters to meet their national determined contributions in reducing green house emissions,” he said.

“The impacts of climate change currently occurring at an alarming rate at our shores presents a clear and present danger, which might exacerbate the core drivers of conflicts.”

Few will argue with what the Prime Minister said because it is known that five islands have already disappeared in the Solomon Islands due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

A further six reef islands have been severely eroded in the remote areas of the Solomons where 10 houses were swept into the sea between 2011 and 2014.

“At least 11 islands across the northern Solomon Islands have either totally disappeared over recent decades or are currently experiencing severe erosion,” a study published in Australian said.

A senior research fellow at the University of Queensland said recently the Solomons was considered a sea-level hotspot because sea rises there are almost three times higher than the global average.

There is growing evidence, too, of sea rises affecting coastal communities in the Western Province, Malaita, Reef Islands and Choiseul resulting in communities relocating to higher ground, crop damage and polluted drinking water.

Prime Minister Sogavare, together with the Prime Minister of Fiji, have been very active in highlighting the affects of climate changes in their respective countries, but also drawing international attention to the plight of many of the Pacific’s smaller island states suffering also from rising sea levels.

Prime Minister Sogavare was not the only world leader to call upon the United States to reconsider its position on the Paris (COP 21) climate agreement, since the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, reportedly issued a veiled warning to Donald Trump, arguing that his plan to withdraw from the Paris climate change treaty ranked alongside North Korea’s nuclear missile tests as a threat to global prosperity and security.

In her speech to the UN general assembly, the British prime minister sought to project her vision of a “rules-based” international order.

While Prime Minister Sogavare’s ‘diplomatic’ address to the UN body did not raise the specter of a breach of international law of human rights by a failure to address the threats imposed by climate change on the lives of the people of the Solomon Islands, it might be worth considering what the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) decided in 2006.

I will quote from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

“In 2005 the Malé Declaration on the Human Dimension of Global Climate Change “stated explicitly (and for the first time in an international agreement) that ‘climate change has clear and immediate implications for the full enjoyment of human rights’ and called on the United Nations human rights system to address the issue as a matter of urgency.”

“The following year, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) unanimously adopted Resolution 7/23, recognizing that “climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights,” and citing the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[5] The HRC reaffirmed and expanded these statements with resolutions 10/4 of 25 March 2009[6] and 18/22 of 30 September 2011.

“Recent years have seen an increased recognition of the link between human rights and the environment, yet there are still many questions surrounding the relationship between them. As a result the HRC established a mandate on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

“Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.

“Most international statements on human rights and climate change have emphasized the potential adverse impacts of climate change on the rights to life, food, water, health, housing, development, and self-determination.”

The British Prime Minister’s closing words during her address before the United Nations General Assembly last week, might be quoted here to sum up the relevance of fairness and the respect for Solomon Islanders human rights in relation to the growing threat the country is facing by climate change.

“It is the fundamental values that we share, values of fairness, justice and human rights that have created the common cause between nations to act together in our shared interest and form the multilateral system.”

Let us see that fairness and justice prevail.

Yours sincerely


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