December 10, 2021, by Tirana Hassan, HRW’s Deputy Executive Director and Chief Programs Officer:
Human Rights Day – the anniversary of the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is a day to celebrate our shared humanity. We have the chance to reflect areas where we can make rights a reality as we emerge from another period of turmoil.
The climate crisis is taking a mounting toll on the lives, health, and livelihoods of people around the globe. And, as we’ve seen this past year with devastating floods in Germany and the United States and deadly heat waves in Canada and Pakistan, governments are failing to protect at-risk populations from the foreseeable harm of climate change. Their recent pledges of more ambitious action to reducing greenhouse gas emissions still fall well short of what’s needed to avert the most catastrophic outcomes of global warming.
Governments need to recognize and learn from the extensive know-how of local communities and civil society groups to address the impacts of climate change with equity. And, above all, they need to heed the calls of climate activists to drastically ramp up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late.
Human Rights Day 2021 isn’t a day to lament the losses or fear what may come – it is a call to action. It is a reminder that the hard-won fights of the past need to be protected and advanced and that human rights for all requires action from governments and international bodies. But it also highlights that protecting our human rights is driven by human rights activists and defenders in every corner of the globe.