ESCR-Net Members Take Up Collective Work on Climate Justice

Publish Date: 
Monday, January 13, 2020

ESCR-Net members have identified environmental destruction and climate change as one of five common conditions threatening communities globally, highlighting the endlessly extractive nature of our dominant economic system and the commodification of nature. Eco-destruction and climate change threaten a range of human rights at a systemic level, including the human rights to life, health, food, water, housing and work. To meaningfully protect human rights, it is essential to address the climate crisis. Effective realization of human rights, from substantive equality to indigenous peoples’ rights, can also contribute positively towards tackling climate change. Urged by member organizations and mandated by our  Common Charter for Collective Struggle, ESCR-Net is currently advancing a networkwide project on Environment & ESCR with a first priority focus on climate justice.  

Over 35 members—social movements and NGOs—across all regions have been active in initial mapping and pilot actions. Many of these members are also engaged in different working groups, supporting this project to involve other members, build on existing collective action and leverage networkwide strengths.

The following members have joined an Advisory Group to lead the network’s climate justice work at present: Al-Haq, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, DejusticiaFIAN InternationalGlobal Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Green Advocates, Human Rights Law Network, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, Kairos- The Center for Religion, Rights and Social Justice, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, and the World Forum of Fisher Peoples.

The project aims to deepen connections among members interested to work together on climate; create the space for mutual learning; develop our shared analysis of the structural factors driving the climate crisis and our vision for solutions/alternatives; as well as coordinate member led collective action.

Since March 2019, the ESCR-Net secretariat has been consulting with members via meetings and outreach calls. In terms of emerging points of shared analysis and common messages, these include, among others:

  • Social movements, indigenous peoples and communities directly affected by and resisting climate change impacts must be central to our analysis, alternatives and strategies.
  • Profound global inequalities and inequities rooted in our economic, political and social systems underpin the current ecological devastation and climate crisis. There is an urgent need to recognize and address these structural causes and pursue globally equitable solutions to adaptation and mitigation, grounded in a feminist and intersectional analysis.
  • States must take urgent action to address climate change, including regulating and holding accountable corporate and financial actors, in order to meet their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, domestically and extraterritorially. Climate action must not violate human rights.
  • Global solidarity with and stronger protections for human rights and environmental defenders are critical.

As part of this evolving project, members have also piloted a few initiatives over the last months.

Strategic Litigation: In June 2019, the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), the Open Society Forum, ESCR-Net’s Strategic Litigation Working Group (SLWG) and members active in our emerging work on environment & ESCR, co-organized a litigation workshop entitled Enforcing Environmental Rights. In collaboration with the SLWG, some of these members are now advancing a collective amicus intervention in relation to an indigenous land rights case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The amicus will focus on international and comparative research reinforcing indigenous land rights and affirming the role of indigenous peoples as custodians of the environment. This effort embodies the key principle that human rights must be central to climate and environmental action. The case is being litigated by Minority Rights Group International.

Women & ESCR: In July 2019, members of the project facilitated strategic discussions on climate justice via dedicated sessions at the second grassroots women’s leaders exchange on land, housing and natural resources held in Chiang Mai, Thailand,  with the aim to create a strong foundation for building a feminist, intersectional approach to our climate work. The exchange included an informal consultation with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Key points of consensus on climate justice emerging from the exchange were included in a collective submission by participating women leaders for the Day of General Discussion (DGD) organized by CESCR on the draft general comment on land, which was held on 14 October 2019. Members of the project on Environment and ESCR were also present at the DGD and made strong interventions in their individual organizational capacity during the panel on ‘Land under changing environmental conditions and climate change.’

Networkwide:  From May-September 2019, ESCR-Net, was on the taskforce to support organizing the Peoples’ Summit on Climate, Rights and Human Survival held in New York 18-19 September 2019. A primary aim of the summit was to galvanize the human rights movement to more fully throw its weight behind the climate justice movement while working to ensure that strategies for mitigation and adaptation place human rights at the center. The advisory group guided all of ESCR-Net’s contributions to the summit, notably helping to shape the resulting declaration. On another front, members have contributed case studies to the Maastricht IV Initiative on the Human Rights of Future Generations. In addition, the emerging project has facilitated multiple bilateral connections among members working on climate, and supported member engagement in context of Human Rights Council sessions and various climate and human rights related events, especially at the intersection of land and climate.

As we build up this work across the network, we will have an in-person meeting early next year 2020, tentatively in late May, to decide together on priority areas for collective work.

Many of those living in impoverishment and with long histories of oppression, are already confronting the highest costs of climate change, despite having contributed the least to the climate crisis. Indeed, they have often led in conserving biodiversity, embodying social and solidarity economies of necessity, and resisting environmental devastation impacting their communities, and yet they are seldom welcomed in international policy spaces as contributors to decision-making. Building a shared understanding across diverse struggles to collectively advance climate justice and human rights, guided by the lived experience of affected communities and the leadership of social movements, is critical. The very survival of humanity and the planet is at stake.

For more information on the network’s emerging work on climate justice, please email Joie Chowdhury at