The 12th WHRCF Special Features
In recent years, extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, and heavy rains have threatened lives on global scale. For decades, the international community has recognized climate change as a serious crisis which all of humankind needs to take collective responsibility for and act against. Furthermore, with the recognition that climate change negatively impacts human rights, the Human Rights Council recognized the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment in October 2021 for the first time. The climate crisis not only affects the right to self-determination, cultural rights, right to health, and right to life, but also acts as a cause of migration. Its impacts are disproportionate in that individuals and communities in vulnerable situations suffer most severely despite contributing the least to the climate crisis. Recognizing that the global climate crisis is leading to a human rights crisis, the theme of 'Climate Crisis and Human Rights' was chosen for the 12th World Human Rights Cities Forum. This year's forum will approach the issue of the climate crisis from a human rights perspective and advocate for human rights-based measures for cities. Now that only a month remains before the forum, we will cover five outstanding characteristics of this year’s forum, based on the five letters of ‘WHRCF’.
A Wide Range of Programs
For the first time in two years, the forum will be held on site, including not only meetings but also opportunities for participants to take part in various tours and side events. There will be a Human Rights Dark Tour, where you can look around the historic site of the May 18 Democratic Movement, which is also the historical and spiritual foundation of the human rights city Gwangju, as well as a Human Rights Policy Tour, where you can learn about Gwangju’s policy against the climate crisis. There will also be a Culture and Arts Tour, a UNESCO Tour, and an Asia Culture Center Tour, where you can discover a different side of Gwangju, as a center of Asian culture and the Creative City of Media Arts designated by UNESCO. Furthermore, diverse artworks submitted by citizens on the theme of human rights will be displayed in the venue, and a booth will be set up where you can learn about the activities of the Gwangju Human Rights Village Network, which is working to promote human rights at a grassroots level.
A Highly-relevant Issue for All
The theme of this year, "Climate Crisis and Human Rights", which is particularly relevant as we experience extreme weather events more frequently, was decided by the forum's International Steering Committee. The committee, consisting of officials from overseas co-hosts and co-organizers, and domestic planning committee members, was launched to reflect major agendas of the international community beyond Korea. This year's forum recognizes the climate crisis as one of the biggest threats to human rights and a sustainable future, and reinterprets it from a human rights perspective. In particular, it seeks to identify vulnerable groups suffering more seriously from the climate crisis and to suggest solutions for the problems of discrimination and inequality occurring in certain areas. For instance, due to the recent heavy rain in Seoul, a family was found dead in a Banjiha apartment, which is a semi-underground residence normally occupied by vulnerable or underprivileged people. It is necessary to bring attention to these issues so that measures can be taken to resolve them and assist those in need.
Representatives of All Levels, From High-Level Delegations to Youth Activists
In order to overcome the climate crisis, responses must be made at all levels, including the international community, the state, local governments, and individuals. As a result, various stakeholders will participate in this year's forum. In particular, Ian Fry, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, who played an important role in calling for the international community to take collective action against climate crisis by bring attention to the situation of Tuvalu, a small island located in the South Pacific that is in danger of being submerged, is expected to be invited. Mayors and representatives from cities around the world will also be present to share their experience and insight. This will not only be cities responding well to the climate crisis, but also cities that are suffering the most, so that a coalition can be created to find various solutions and seek international solidarity. This year in particular, it is very important to hear the voices of future generations who will inherit an earth gravely affected by the crisis. Accordingly, young activists from all over the world will participate in various meetings. This includes Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, a Nigerian activist from Future For Fridays (FFF), and an activist from Youth Climate Emergency Action.
A Contribution to The Global Discussion
This year's forum will be built on the foundation of agreements made in existing global discussions such as the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. One of the goals of this year's forum is to prepare human rights-based guidelines or guiding principles that local governments can implement in responding to the climate crisis. An expert working group, consisting of officials from international organizations, climate experts, and the forum’s International Advisory Committee members, has been formed to achieve this. During the forum, this group will focus on gathering valuable knowledge and relevant examples. Furthermore, we are actively seeking ways in which this guideline can be reflected in global discussions, declarations, and decisions, such as the UNFCCC, in the future.
An Eco-Friendly Event
As this year's main objective is to discuss solutions to the climate crisis, we are focusing on preparing the most eco-friendly events ever. Over the past years, the forum has established and complied with eco-friendly event management policy to reduce waste of resources. This includes measures such as not using disposable items, reusing previously-used items, reducing the amount of event items, and using electronic documents. This year, we will further strengthen the eco-friendly event management policy and actively promote a green campaign so that participants can participate in a meaningful and sustainable event.
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