Ensuring sufficient attention to the link between the ocean, climate change and the right to food 

By Senia Febrica, Bernadette Snow, Buhle Francis, Georgina Yaa Oduro, Kenneth Amankwaah Boateng, and Bolanle Erinosho

The Hub’s written submission on the impacts of climate change on the human right to food in the context of ocean governance has been included in the UN Secretary-General’s Report on “Adverse impact of climate change on the full realisation of the right to food”  (A/HRC/53/47). The Hub submission aimed to ensure that enough attention is paid to the negative impacts of climate change on food security at the ocean-climate nexus 

The uptake 

On 7 December 2022, we responded to a call for inputs titled Report on the adverse impact of climate change on the right to food by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Hub’s submission was prepared by Senia Febrica, Bernadette Snow (University of Strathclyde, UK), Buhle Francis (Rhodes University, South Africa), and Georgina Yaa Oduro, Kenneth Amankwaah Boateng and Bolanle Erinosho (University of Cape Coast, Ghana). It underlined the importance of paying sufficient attention to the ocean when discussing the impacts of climate change on the right to food.   

The UN Secretary General’s Report cited Hub’s evidence in stating:  

“Climate change contributes to changes in oceanographic conditions, declining reproduction patterns and the distribution of fish species towards higher altitudes, which negatively affect food security in the tropics” (see footnote 35 of the thematic report A/HRC/53/47).  

Broader reflections from the Hub submission 

In the submission, the Hub further highlighted that our research findings in Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa show that:  

  • climate change impacts on fisheries may cause forced migration among coastal communities that rely on fisheries resources; 

On the whole, the Hub submission underscored that climate change threatens the enjoyment of a range of human rights at the ocean-climate nexus, including rights to food, health, water and sanitation, a healthy environment, and culture

The importance of new methodologies 

In Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa, the Hub has developed different methods to integrate the views and knowledge of different human rights holders, including those that are often marginalised and most dependent on the ocean such as girls and women, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, into decision-making at the ocean-climate-food security nexus: 

  • small-scale fisher community-level assessments of vulnerability to climate change and impacts on their well-being; 
  • documentation of alignment between science and indigenous knowledge through an original animated film, Indlela yokuphila (isiZulu for “the soul’s journey”), which brought together artists, traditional healers, marine sociologists and deep-sea marine ecologists. The film has been presented at the Glasgow Climate COP26 in collaboration with the Green Climate Fund and at the UN World Ocean Day 2023 in collaboration with the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Peace Boat, and Blue Planet Alliance; 
  • support networks for Indigenous Peoples and local communities (such as the Khoisan community in South Africa, the Topnaar community in Namibia, and small-scale fishers in Ghana) with scientific and legal evidence, to express concerns regarding proposed ocean uses that would contribute to climate change; 
  • In South Africa, theatre-based research to identify ocean-related injustices and increase participation in ocean governance. A play developed with communities along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast (Lalela uLwandle “Listen to the Sea”) has offered decision-makers and stakeholders a facilitated discussion on ocean governance and collected testimonies on people’s concerns and hopes for the ocean. Some of these testimonies were used by civil society partners in judicial proceedings against oil and gas drilling in the seabed, resulting in decisions on the protection of cultural and participation rights, as well as environmental protection. Lalela uLwandle was presented at the 2022 UNFCCC’s Capacity Building Hub at Sharm El Sheik Climate COP27, the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA) Closing in March 2023 and the 2023 UN World Ocean Day at the UN Headquarters, New York.  
  • In the South Pacific community art-based research to connect Indigenous knowledge with ocean and climate change governance. At a Climate COP27 side-event, the community art project Netai en Namou Toc (Stories of Mother Ocean) was showcased at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion. The project puts at its centre Indigenous knowledge of the sea through an illustrated children’s book. It was supported by the One Ocean Hub’s Deep Emotional Engagement Programme (DEEP) Fund, an innovative programme of community-led art projects that explore emotional connections to the ocean.  

Photo: YODA Adaman

Related SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Gender equality
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Reduced inequality
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnership for the goals