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Open civic space and the right to participation: Essential steps on the path to climate justice

30 May 2024 • 1:00 – 2:00 pm BST

The meaningful participation of a broad range of civil society actors and Indigenous peoples at UN climate conferences is crucial to ensure scrutiny of governmental action and to provide diverse inputs that can shape states’ decisions. This requires freedom of expression – including access to information, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

These rights are essential to foster global efforts to address the climate crisis, yet environmental human rights defenders and Indigenous peoples defending their lands are subject to attacks and vilification, all too often paying with their lives. Climate conferences are often hosted by states that do not respect these rights, and civic space in UNFCCC meetings is also restricted.

The widening gap between rhetoric and reality in the protection of civic space in climate action spaces at local, national, regional and international levels must be closed as a prerequisite to mobilize broad public support in all countries and regions for the full, fast, fair and funded fossil fuel phase-out that is needed to address the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation that threatens humanity and the environment. There is no climate justice without human rights.

This webinar, organized ahead the Bonn Climate Conference and COP29 in Azerbaijan, was held on Thursday 30 April 2024, by Amnesty International and Minority Rights Group. It featured human rights, civic engagement and effective participation as key enablers for climate justice.

Alfred Brownell, Climate Legal Defence (CLiDeF), Arzu Geybulla, Azerbaijani journalist, Christine Kandie, Executive Director of Endorois Indigenous Women Empowerment Network (EIWEN), the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate, Elisa Morgera and Emmanuel Schlichter from Green Legal Impact were among expert speakers involved in discussions:

  • Voices Under Fire: Exploring increasing restrictions on civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and indigenous communities advocating for climate justice. 
  • Government Accountability: Strategies to compel governments to reform their approach to climate and human rights. 
  • Multilateral Forums: Why freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly matter in international climate negotiations 

The webinar provided a vital platform for environmental advocates and human rights defenders to share challenges and successes they have encountered at local, national, regional and international levels.

Watch the replay

Benigno Rojas, a leader of the Enxet indigenous community of Paraguay, shows one of the last water reserves of the tajamares, the wells that collect rainwater for drinking when other sources are unavailable. Credit: Santi Carneri.