Climate Change and Human Rights in Africa

By: Macy Janine Pamaranglas – Art in Tanzania Intern

Introduction

Climate change has always been a topic of concern mainly because lack of climate action can not only lead to environmental damages, but it can also to human rights violations. According to the 2022 Ibrahim Forum Report, food insecurity has affected 800 million people in the African continent, and 281.6 million individuals are undernourished. Hence, it is of great importance to prioritize climate mitigation and adaptation to be able to protect basic human rights.

phys.org (source)

Although Africa is not part of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions (with emissions of roughly 4%), it is the most affected by climate change; “the rate of Africa’s warming is 1.5 times faster than the global warming average”. This makes the continent vulnerable to erratic rainfall, extreme drought, desertification, and frequent flooding. As a result of unfortunate occurrences, problems such as human displacement, food insecurity, and spread of illnesses become inevitable.

Case Studies

Geographically speaking, Zimbabwe is a country that has “limited water resources”. With the aggravating climate issue, the country becomes severely impacted by water scarcity. Thus, locals have the tendency to resort to untreated or unsafe water resources. Drinking unpotable water is a health risk since it can result to various diseases such as hepatitis E, cholera, diarrhea and parasitic diseases. In fact, between 2008 and 2009, there was a mass cholera outbreak, and the latter exacerbated with the simultaneous drought and inconsistent weather patterns.

UN (source)

Consequently, people migrate to escape the worsening situation in the country. Migration brings about several other predicaments to the locals. For instance, there is no assurance in terms of food, water, and shelter. Education is interrupted with the constant fleeing, and socio-economic problems such as sexual abuse, violence, and discrimination become pertinent. Indeed, climate change has devastating effects on human rights as one violation leads to another; it works as a domino-effect.  

In the Sahel region, fishing and agriculture are the main sources of living. With climate change, people’s sources of living are significantly impacted. As a matter of fact, studies have predicted that Mali’s agriculture capacity may decline by 30 to 40 percent. Whereas, in Senegal, fishing stocks may decrease by 80 percent.

Additionally, it is fundamental to note that, the level of vulnerability increases with existing political-economic tensions. For instance, Niger and South Sudan are suffering from ongoing problems with regards to the Boko Haram and civil war respectively. Therefore, these people carry so much burden that enjoying their basic human rights becomes far-fetched.

Efforts

Several efforts have been executed to limit the devastating impact of climate change and one of them is the #GreenJusticeAfrica initiative. The latter is a campaign that “focuses on the impact of climate change in Africa, through the lens of the existing degeneration of the fulfilment of the human rights of the most vulnerable.” In addition, the infamous Paris Agreement, tackled climate change “as an urgent and serious threat to humankind”. It sets up a universal rule that all countries that signed this agreement by limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

EURACTIV.com (source)

Conclusion

In conclusion, climate action should be prioritized both on the public and private sphere, and it is important to do so because not only does it negatively impact the environment as a whole, but rather it affects our human rights. It is not merely about the protection of the present generation, but also about the preservation of the future generations. Let us save our Mother Earth before it’s too late!

Sources

Addaney, M., Boshoff, E., & Olutola, B. (2017). THE CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS NEXUS IN AFRICA. Amsterdam Law Forum. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://amsterdamlawforum.org/articles/10.37974/ALF.304/

Khumalo, S. (n.d.). #greenjusticeafrica: The impact of climate change on the protection and fulfilment of human rights in Africa. Home – Centre for Human Rights. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.chr.up.ac.za/campaigns/greenjusticeafrica

Nonjinge, G. (2022, November 2). Climate change adaptation in Africa: A human rights perspective. PreventionWeb. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.preventionweb.net/news/climate-change-adaptation-africa-human-rights-perspective

Report: How climate change affects the human rights of sahel region migrants. OHCHR. (2021, November 11). Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2021/11/report-how-climate-change-affects-human-rights-sahel-region-migrants

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