UN climate change, human rights expert needed: church advocate

(Photo: Reuters / Denis Balibouse)Delegates talk before the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva February 25, 2013.

A church body official has reiterated a call for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council to create a new position for an independent expert on human rights and climate change.

Action for climate justice is an "ethical and spiritual imperative," said Dr. Guillermo Kerber, head of the World Council of Church's creation and climate justice program.

He was speaking at a side event for the HRC on Tuesday with several panelists engaging in a discussion organized by the WCC in collaboration with other Christian groups, interfaith networks and civil society groups.

In closing remarks, Kerber, who also served as a moderator said there was a need for visible action to protect the most vulnerable groups and all victims of climate change.

He said the WCC, other faith-based organizations and a broad coalition of non-governmental organizations are calling on the HRC to establish an expert dealing with the matter, a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.

The UN describes the Special Rapporteur as an independent, non-staff expert appointed by the HRC to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.

Duties include undertaking country visits, conducting communications to States and others in which they bring alleged violations or abuses to their attention, and conducting studies and convening expert consultations. They also report annually to the HRC and the U.N.'s General Assembly.

Existing Rapporteurs deal with thematic and country mandates, including those relating to modern forms of slavery, water and sanitation, and for human rights situations in the Sudan, Iran, and Syria.

In 2012, the HRC established an independent expert on the issue of "human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment."

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