PRESS RELEASE

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

Year 2009 Selected
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N°: 090/2009
17 September 2009 [Lome - Togo]

CONFERENCE ADOPTS HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES IN WEST AFRICA

Participants attending a regional conference entitled “Regional Conference on Protection Challenges to Climate Change in West Africa”, have ended their two- day conference in Lome, the Togolese capital with a call for the use of a human rights-based approach to address climate change challenges in the region. The call reflects the adoption of a broader social dimension to the climate change debate, considering the growing negative impact of climate change on West Africa which affects the stability of the region, including the human security and rights of the citizens of the region. In particular are conflicts arising from the depletion of natural resources and the infringement of displaced persons’ rights, including the rights to shelter, food, clean water, health, education and their aspiration to dignity and a better future. In a declaration issued on Wednesday, 16th September 2009 entitled “Lome Declaration on Climate Change and Protection of Civilians in West Africa”, the participants also recommended the establishment of a special fund specifically to help address climate change-induced impact on affected part of the population. In addition, they called for measures to protect climate-affected persons, especially women, children and the youth in order to preserve the full enjoyment of their fundamental human rights. To ensure a better protection of the West African population, the participants further agreed that a regional platform should be established for data based development and information exchange among ECOWAS Member States. They also advocated the drafting of new legal instruments aimed at ensuring the protection for climate-induced persons in the region. Their call for new legal instruments is consistent with their acknowledgement of the urgency to encourage the realization of the protection of the needs of those West African citizens who do not fall within the existing legal arrangements such as the International Refugee Law, the UN Guiding Principles on Internally displaced persons and the African Union Convention on Refugees. While recalling, amongst others, the principles and goals of the ECOWAS regional policy and plan of action on disaster risk reduction as well as the regional action programme to reduce vulnerability to climate change, the participants also recommended the strengthening of the capacity of national and regional stakeholders in the area of humanitarian emergency preparedness and response. Their concerns are expected to be reflected in Africa’s presentation at the 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change which will be held from 7th to 18th December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this regard, the conference has urged regional leaders to ensure that the voices of the peoples of West Africa be heard as appropriate at the Copenhagen conference. It was noted that this was crucial to the ECOWAS Vision 2020 aimed at moving from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of the people. The participants also called on the international community to provide supplementary resources needed to mobilize ad-hoc support for on-going initiatives of ECOWAS Member States in adaptation programmes, including those related to the protection and respect for human rights, risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response capacity. Similarly, they urged ECOWAS Member States to promote and establish adaptation mechanisms which take into consideration regional cooperation, national expertise and knowledge to formulate such multi-sectoral response needed to tackle effectively the global challenge at the regional level. Participants at the conference - which was facilitated in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission by the United Nations Office in West Africa (UNOWA), the West Africa regional offices of the OHCHR and OCHA - included representatives from ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania, national human rights institutions in West Africa, the African Union, development partners as well as government and non-governmental agencies. These included the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Bank, the International Organization on Migration (IOM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the following UN agencies: UNDP, UNEP, UNICEF, UNIFEM and ILO.


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