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Might As Well Go Shop? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Natalie Morris, Singapore Sep 3, 2002
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions


Johannesburg, September (GYRP) – Where are human rights at the World Summit on Sustainable Development? Gradually getting there, may be the answer.

Lisa Sock from the International Campaign for Tibet feels that human rights groups have not been listened to enough at the World Summit. She says civil society groups have “incredible vibrancy” and that if the decision-makers are not going to listen to them, they “might as well go shop”.

At the other end of the spectrum, Stephen Marks of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Centre for Health and Human Rights says: “Our voice is being heard… if we hadn’t tried, there would have been no human rights language in the text.”

Whichever the case may be, what is certain is the rapidly growing acceptance of the interdependent nature of human rights and the environment.

At a press conference this week, the Chief Justice of South Africa spoke of the “consensus that environmental rights are an essential part of human rights”.

In a statement at the Summit, Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, commented: “It is striking how at every level – international, regional, national – there is a greater appreciation than ever before of the nexus between human rights and environmental themes.”

Indeed, the situation was quite different a decade ago, when human rights issues and environmental concerns were neatly (and simplistically) compartmentised. The Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 did not make many explicit references to human rights. In 1993, at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, the environment was hardly mentioned.

Things have definitely changed since then. At present, ‘human rights’ has become an umbrella concept under which the issues discussed at the Summit thus far – education, health, water, and so on – have been classified.

Whether the leaders will reflect this paradigm shift in the Plan of Implementation due to be adopted at the end of the Summit, however, remains to be seen.




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