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Stream 4: Systemic Problems Compared

This stream will consider human rights responses to other systemic issues, even those lacking an immediately visible nexus to climate change. Understanding the drawbacks and advantages of a human rights response to systemic issues should inform the understanding of climate change as a human rights issue, and create a broader outlook going forward.

While the systemic problem posed by global climate change is the focal point for the three other streams of the project, and for the project overall, it should not be viewed in isolation. For one, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the climate crisis cannot be addressed without rethinking modern approaches to, for example, capitalism and the economy, extractionism, and relationships to nature and to indigenous peoples. In addition, even where they lack an immediately visible nexus to global climate change, an examination of human rights responses to other systemic issues can provide valuable lessons for understanding climate change as a human rights issue, and vice versa. 

The project’s working definition of systemic issues is that these are structural or endemic aspects affecting the human rights enjoyment of wide swathes of populations of a given State or multiple States. Multiple States matter particularly where issues require action by more than one State in order to be resolved and/or where multi-national economic interests are advanced as the rationale for failing to deploy a more effective response to these issues. Research in this stream will contest and fine-tune this working definition, as well as seeking out and examining the lessons that can be gleaned from issues falling under it. For example, the recent and ongoing human rights impacts of States’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are of relevance here, as are responses to for example migration flows and conflicts.