The Right to Food

COP 15: Mainstreaming human rights in biodiversity and climate action

News - 16.02.2023

16 February 2023 – In a significant move towards bridging the gap between nature, climate change and human rights, the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), whose implementation should follow a human rights-based approach according to its 14th paragraph. The agreement also acknowledges the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly last July.

In a message read to the Plenary,  the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stressed that “a rights-based approach, including meaningful and informed participation, is essential for effective environmental action.” Asking for a GBF with human rights at its core, he emphasized that “human rights and related principles must be meaningfully reflected not just in guiding principles or the chapeau of the Framework but in goals, targets and indicators that will be monitored, reviewed, and acted upon”.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) pledged to strengthening its collaboration with the UN system to promote solutions that protect natural ecosystems benefiting people, whilst contributing to tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity.

“Our food and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked”, asserted FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo during the High-Level Opening of COP15 Food Day. She added that the Organization is committed to building stronger bridges between agricultural sectors towards more inclusive and sustainable agrifood systems, and stands ready to assist countries to jumpstart implementation of the GBF.

Sustainable management of natural resources was highlighted as critically important for ensuring positive impact on food and nutrition. Senior Biodiversity Specialist from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Nadine Azzu, pointed out that for women and Indigenous Peoples, land rights mean rights to food and cultural continuity. She also explained that access and tenure rights’ failure to comply with human rights risks leading vulnerable groups to further exclusion. Azzu encouraged to adopt policy instruments such as the Tenure Guidelines (VGGT), rooted in the Right to Food Guidelines, to ensure equal access to land.

Human rights and the environment: connecting the dots

On Human Rights Day, FAO hosted, together with UN’s Environmental Management Group (EMG) Issue Management Group (IMG) on Human Rights and the Environment partners, an event exploring UN system’s contributions to integrating human rights in biodiversity action, and most specifically in realizing the right to a healthy environment.

As the first speaker, Marie-Lara Hubert-Chartier, FAO Right to Food Specialist, presented the guidance produced by the IMG in advancing a human rights-based approach to the GBF. Its key messages include the protection of the rights of those in vulnerable situations; the respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities; gender equality in the implementation of the GBF; business responsibility to respect human rights in relation to biodiversity; inclusive and rights-based finance; and a rights-based approach to the post-2020 GBF monitoring framework.

The expert concluded her remarks referencing the unprecedented levels of inequality exacerbated by the pandemic, which has highlighted further the fragility of food systems. “As agricultural biodiversity is drastically reduced, so is the resilience of our food systems. This jeopardizes food security and the realization of the human right to adequate food for all”.

Participants also called for the implementation of monitoring and reporting instruments relevant to the newly recognized right to a healthy environment, and to provide insight to private sector actors  on what this means to their business. 

Inviting nature on the agenda for sustainable development

COP15 was held in Montréal, Canada, from 7-19 December 2022, under the Presidency of the People's Republic of China. Around 18 000 registered for the conference, including representatives from more than 194 parties to the Convention.

FAO, as an observer, supported Members with technical advice both within and outside the negotiations, and organized events on several topics, including soil biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity and sustainable wildlife management. The Organization plays a central role in the realization of human rights, most notably the right to adequate food.

The CBD is one of the three UN multilateral treaties that derived from the 1992 Earth Summit, along with the climate and desertification Conventions.

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