Location: M2300

1:45-3:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov 2, 2023

Discussant: Dean Andrew Strauss, University of Dayton School of Law

  • Ebenezer Durojaye, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Assim Usang, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Bright Nkrumah, University of the Free State, South Africa
  • Amar Mahadew, University of Mauritius, Mauritius
  • Thalia Viveros-Uehara, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

This session is co-hosted by the University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute (HSI).


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Thursday, November 2nd
1:45 PM

The Role of African Regional Human Rights Bodies in Addressing the Negative Impacts of Climate Change

Ebenezer Durojaye
Assim Usang, University of the Western Cape
Bright Nkrumah, University of the Free Sate
Amar Mahadew, University of Mauritius


1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

Undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges humanity has got to contend with in recent times, is that of climate change. Climate change and environmental degradation pose great threats to the enjoyment of individual rights across the world. In its first ever resolution on climate change in 2008, the Human Rights Council affirmed that ‘’ “climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights” (UNHRC, Resolution 7/23 ‘Human Rights and Climate Change’, 28 March 2008, un Doc. A/hrc/res/7/23). Subsequently, the first report of the first Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment noted that “environmental degradation can and does adversely affect the enjoyment of a broad range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food and water’.’(UNHRC, ‘Report of the Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment’, Preliminary Report, John H. Knox, 2012, A/hrc/22/43, p. 12).

It is now greatly agreed that climate change and environmental degradation can undermine the enjoyment of human rights. This ranges from the right to life, dignity, food non-discrimination and health. In the celebrated case of Urgendra case, the applicant brought an action against the government of Netherlands from failing to contain greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, there-by failing to sufficiently avert dangerous climate change. The applicant thus claimed that the government has been in breach of duty of care towards present and future generations. The major issue for determination in this case was whether the government had a duty of care towards Urgendra to limit emissions on a higher scale than it was planning to do. This case is significant in the sense that it portrays the important role court and other human rights bodies can play in holding states accountable to address climate change.

Against this backdrop, this panel, made up of distinguished experts from Africa, will examine the roles regional human rights bodies such as the Africa Commission, the African Expert Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Court can play in in holding African governments accountable for human rights violations arising from climate change. The Panel is a joint initiative of the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, Free State Human Rights Centre and the Department of Law, University of Mauritius The panel explores how regional human rights bodies can contribute towards ameliorating the impact of climate change and advancing human rights in this regard. It will seek to draw lessons from other jurisdictions regarding the application of a rights-based approach to climate change.

The Climate Emergency Before the Inter-American Human Rights System: Evolution and New Horizons

Thalia Viveros Uehara, Tilburg University


1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

This presentation will provide an overview of the evolution of climate change as a critical human rights issue, specifically within the framework of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Occupying a central role in the legal, political, and social landscapes of Latin America, these institutions have been instrumental in establishing and enforcing (potentially transformative) normative standards that offer protection to populations most at risk from climate-related impacts. Current initiatives will be highlighted for their role in strengthening resilience within vulnerable communities and mitigating global warming's progression. There will be a strong emphasis on integrating scientific insights with human rights principles to shape equitable and timely policy responses as this critical issue unfolds in this region of the world.