Human Rights Could be Stumbling Block for Climate Accord

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The Nation, Paris, France

Objections were raised yesterday by African climate negotiators to efforts to introduce human rights conditionallity as a provision for climate assistance to developing countries. between African delegates and countries have described the draft climate agreement released on Thursday as fair in general principle but lacking in addressing specific concerns of Africans.

Shortly after the release of the draft agreement text yesterday afternoon, African Environment Ministers convened to develop a common position on what the continent should push for in the final drafts, expected to be completed on December 11.

A point of contention which seems to cut across many of the African states is the inclusion of human rights as a condition in the agreement.

According to one of the negotiators from Nigeria, who requested anonymity due to the evolving nature of the discussion, it is "out of the question" to include human rights as a condition for climate change funding.

He said: "We are concerned about human rights because there is no mechanism to measure human rights. It should have no place as a condition in these talks. There are issues already in Africa about the definition of human rights, so we don't want an issue where they come to you saying because you have not fulfilled these criteria, you are not qualified to access funding."

Also Niger and Gabon also warned that development partners might use the issue of human rights as "a tool of interference."

As for the rest of the text, most of the African countries hailed the inclusion of Article 8, Article 4, Paragraph 7, which deals with clarifying the nature of assistance to developing countries and other countries in need. Sierra Leone has been arguing for adding adding a clause to describe those countries eligible for aid to include, "countries emerging from prolonged crisis."

South Africa's chief negotiator Alf Wills said the issue of human rights is not the only grey area for the Africans. “Human rights is not the only condition,” he said. “There is a text in finance that talks about creating a conducive investment environment, so what does that mean? Does that mean that you liberalize your market? So there are a lot of those conditional ties in the text which depending on how they are interpreted could in fact become barriers to accessing support.”

Meanwhile African countries will work around the clock to reach a consensus as the President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Dr. Khaled Fahmy, puts it: “ It is too early to make a decision if it is favourable to us or not.”