Contributing to the 2025 UN Call for Action on Human Rights with a focus on Ocean Defenders

The Hub raised critical questions related to the protection of ocean defenders, in responding to an invitation from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary-General’s Executive Office to contribute to an online forum for the UN system and civil society organisations on 6th September 2023. The forum provided an opportunity to share experience and discuss how the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights can be leveraged to support and enhance strategic engagement on human rights and the environment and strengthened protection for environmental human rights defenders.

Hub research-based contributions

In her remarks, Hub Director, Elisa Morgera underscored that:

  • there is still little awareness among human rights experts and environmental experts of the threats faced by individuals and groups that resist unsustainable uses of the ocean (including exclusionary conservation). In other words, there is still insufficient awareness of ocean defenders as environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs).
  • several UN bodies or agencies that do not traditionally see themselves as having a human rights mandate have important functions to play, particularly in supporting the creation/enhancement of enabling environments at the national level for ocean defenders. But many UN a staff members may not be aware of their role in protecting human rights and EHRDs;
  • There is an urgent need to clarifying the responsibilities of UN officers (on the basis of the UN Charter) to support the protection of human rights and EHRDs, including when States may not recognize ocean-dependent human rights or ocean defenders;
  • There is an opportunity to map the relevance of the mandates of different UN bodies and agencies via-a-vis the various dimensions of the protection of EHRDs (including ocean defenders), and identify barriers to enhancing coordinating between different UN bodies at the national level to ensure better protection of EHRDs.

Other human rights issues relevant for ocean governance

Participants in the event underscored:

All these issues have arisen also in the specific context of ocean governance, and the Hub continues to advance legal, as well as inter- and trans-disciplinary research on these matters and share findings with relevant international processes.

Main photo: Lisa McDonald