U.N. Chief: Climate Change Damaging Human Rights, Will Produce ‘Powerful Conflicts’

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chilean Michelle Bachelet, speaks during a press conference in Caracas on June 21, 2019. - Bachelet arrived in Venezuela Wednesday as part of a visit to review the country's ongoing economic and political crisis. (Photo by Cristian Hernandez / AFP) (Photo credit should read …
CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned Friday that climate change will cause serious “harm to Human Rights” as well as producing “powerful conflicts” among peoples.

One year after beginning her mandate, Bachelet said that “climate change has been a reality for a long time,” and in order to address it, nations much “take concrete measures to comply with the Paris Agreements.”

“I know that climate change will generate, voluntarily or not, restrictions and harm to people’s rights,” she said in an interview published Friday with the Spanish news agency EFE.

“Of course, it is not nature that violates human rights, but when people have to move because of drought, lack of food, or fight for water, powerful conflicts will be generated,” she added.

This has had particular repercussions in the Amazon region, the Chilean said, with veiled references to the Bolsonaro government in Brazil.

“Governments must listen to civil society because climate change requires behavioral changes and this has to do with the situation in the Amazon,” Bachelet said. “Part of the problems of fires have to do with a set of behaviors of human beings that are harmful to this fantastic area of biodiversity.”

“We have seen democratically elected individuals who have begun to weaken the institutions and decrease the participation of civil society,” she said.

“Years ago, there was talk of ‘demodura’ (hard democracy) and ‘dictablanda’ (soft dictatorship) when these authoritarian biases were seen,” she said, “but what is new is that it now coincides with other processes such as populisms, nationalisms and anti-multilateralism.”

“Citizens no longer consider a democracy that consists in electing their representatives is sufficient — and neither does it seem so to me — and they ask to participate in the decisions that matter to them,” she said.

“It is a risk to democracy, peace and security, but also when people are not allowed to participate at a certain level of decision-making, public policies may not address people’s real problems or go in the wrong direction,” she said.

“The result is that we will continue in a world full of conflicts and problems in which countries opt for solutions that are not adequate, such as restricting migration,” she said, “when in reality what needs to be done is to solve the underlying problems and discuss them with the people.”

The vast majority of countries understand that migration is “a global problem that cannot be solved individually,” Bachelet added, and it is a great mistake for countries “to believe that they can solve the problems themselves with measures that are usually restrictive or regressive.”

“There is no measure that can stop a human being who is desperate and wants to improve their living conditions,” she said.

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