by Rachael Diniega
This month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, will travel to Mongolia on an official country visit. By creating the mandate in 2012, the Human Rights Council acknowledged the increasing recognition of governments and civil society that a safe and sustainable environment is needed to fully enjoy many human rights, such as the rights to food and water. For Mongolia, a healthy environment is particularly important for the one-fifth of its population who are nomadic pastoralists, as their livelihoods are intricately tied to the environment. This post will discuss how rural-urban migration of Mongolian herders highlights the connection between environmental concerns and human rights.
Facing threats of climate change, poor rangeland management, and pollution, Mongolia is falling behind on many of its environment-related human rights obligations. For my dissertation for the MA Human Rights & Cultural Diversity at the University of Essex last year and as a National Geographic Young Explorer, I interviewed herders about environmental change, natural disasters, and migration, focusing on learning what a local human rights-based approach to climate change displacement could look like. One former herder’s story highlighted the human rights and environment issues that Mr. Knox will need to address in his upcoming country visit.
By Jenna Dolecek
Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, United States is a First Nations Sioux sovereign territory. A reservation is a piece of land that the US government set aside for Native Americans to reside on. Historically, tribes were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands to reservations. However, with a reservation comes tribal sovereignty, meaning that tribes are allowed to govern themselves. Unfortunately, not only has the US stolen land previously negotiated in treaties, but the poorly managed tribal-federal system itself keeps Native Americans disenfranchised and with few avenues to protect and exercise their rights. The erosion of tribal sovereignty is a long standing issue in the United States.
Tribal Sovereignty and water rights are intertwined. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Army Corps of Engineers are building the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry Bakken shale oil obtained from fracking. The pipeline passes within a few miles of the reservation and will go under the Missouri River which provides drinking water for tens of millions of people. A Supreme Court decision found that establishing a reservation comes with implied water rights. The issue of whether the pipeline’s construction violates these water rights is currently being heard before the courts. Continue reading
By Colin Samson
A controversial hydroelectric dam project in sub-Arctic Canada relies on local Innu people giving up their own lands. Nalcor Energy, the firm building two dams to produce the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, along Canada’s north-eastern coast, talks enthusiastically about “boundless energy”. And why not? Hydroelectric power is seen as a renewable and relatively benign way to meet the ever-growing energy needs of industrialised societies. Nalcor, owned by its provincial government, says that its project will “significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to taking 3.2m vehicles off the road each year”.
This sounds great. Yet beyond the impressive feats of engineering and the CAN$11 billion cost (£6.5 billion), what will it take to accomplish what is being imagined here?
Across the world, many areas sacrificed for hydroelectric generation belong to indigenous or land-based peoples who either have to be moved or live with drastic changes. The Three Gorges dam in China displaced 1.2m people and the Belo Monte dam in Brazil could displace up to 40,000. And back in the 1950s the Kariba dam project on the Zambesi river in Zambia precipitated an involuntary resettlement of some 57,000 people, including the Gwembe Tonga farmers and hunters, whose homes, gardens, burial and spiritual sites were flooded with virtually no consideration from the British colonial authorities.
Opposition to “progress” may lead to imprisonment and in the case of Honduras and Guatemala, even to the suspected murder of indigenous opposition leaders and protesters. Continue reading
By Rebecca Cordell. Rebecca is a Quantitative Human Rights PhD student in the Department of Government. Her doctoral research focuses on CIA rendition, secret detention and torture post-9/11. You can follow her on twitter: @RebeccaCordell
At 11:56am last Saturday a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal causing widespread devastation. This was the strongest earthquake to hit the Himalayan region in over 80 years and it was followed by a series of tremors and aftershocks that weresignificant earthquakes in their own right (at a magnitude of 6.6 and 6.7). Over 5,500 people are known to have died – a number that is expected to grow significantly over the coming weeks as relief efforts continue. Current estimates indicate that over 100,000 people have been made homeless. These individuals are currently without adequate access to shelter, clean water, sanitation or food; raising the risk of an epidemic.
Four years ago today, an unexpectedly strong earthquake caused an unexpectedly large tsunami which caused a prettypredictable nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan.
I am not the one who scientifically determined that the tsunami-causing nuclear crisis was predictable. I am relying on an important source for this: TEPCO, the company whose nuclear power plant caused the crisis.
By Tara VanHo. You can follow Tara on twitter: @TaraVanHo