Where do Human Rights Belong?

Today marked the first meeting of the ADP Contact Group. Though the meeting started out going over what seemed to be relatively mundane logistical issues, it quickly heated up when human rights were brought up. The problem? Whether human rights issues should be left to the preamble, or given a place in the operational text.

As a refresher, the preamble to an international agreement is not part of the legally binding, operative text of an agreement. Rather, it more or less sets the stage for the agreement and provides a context under which the agreement may be interpreted.

This morning, while addressing Article 7 of the Draft Agreement on Technology Development, Mr. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, the Facilitator from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), addressed concerns over parties introducing new ideas this late in the game. Specifically, he mentioned that while working on the language of Article 7 Section 3, a party motioned to add language regarding human rights. Mr. Mpanu Mpanu noted that this addition slowed the progress they had been making on the text up to that point. However, because COP21 is a party driven process, Mr. Mpanu Mpanu felt obligated to mention it amongst the larger body.

http://paristext2015.com/2015/05/human-rights-in-the-paris-text/Mexico, the party in question, immediately responded. “Human rights is not preamble language.” Mexico maintained that human rights issues are operational issues and should thus not be relegated simply to the preamble. They expressed their willingness to be flexible with the placement of human rights, as long as it received a home somewhere within the operational text. In essence, that human rights text would be legally binding within the text. And in response to suggestions that the issue was being newly introduced, Mexico maintained that they have been asking for its inclusion for a long time leading up to these negotiations.

So that leaves the world with a big question. Should human rights be included in a binding agreement on climate change? Undoubtedly, climate change solutions will involve human rights issues. Climate change is about more than weather, it highlights and intensifies inequalities already in place. For this reason, it is likely that an agreement without biding language on human rights will be to some extent incomplete.