Hub Director appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights 

Elisa Morgera – hub director (Photo: Laurie Lewis)

Hub Director Elisa Morgera has been appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change by the Human Rights Council on 5 April 2024. The selection process involved over 50 candidates.

Her new role will entail contributing to the development of international human rights standards to address and prevent the adverse effects of climate change on human rights in national policymaking, legislation and planning, as well as in international cooperation and in the business sector. The Special Rapporteur’s work aims to contribute to the achievement of SDG13 and SDG14, supporting the resilience and adaptive capacities of people in vulnerable situations to respond to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Elisa’s leadership of the current iteration of the One Ocean Hub will culminate on the occasion of the Hub’s Closing Conference that brings together Hub researchers and partners in Cape Town, South Africa, 20-24 May 2024. The Closing Conference provides an opportunity to advance the Hub’s collective learning from inter- and transdisciplinary findings and transformative practices that have been co-developed over the past five years. From June onwards, Elisa will focus on writing up Hub research and methodologies on the ocean and human rights, as well as supporting, through mentoring and peer-learning, a new generation of research leaders emerging from the Hub.

Philile Mbatha – hub deputy director

Hub Deputy Director Philile Mbatha will lead on the follow-up to the closing conference and the implementation of the Hub Legacy Strategy as well as being the main point of contact for existing and new partners to co-develop initiatives on inclusive and fair ocean governance.  She will also be exploring the adaptation of the Hub’s transformative findings, practices, and methodologies to other sustainable development challenges in different regions of the world. Additionally, Philile will lead on the international engagements of the Hub, ensuring continued online presence to share and connect knowledge and practices including through the One Ocean Learn platform and as part of the UN Decade for Ocean Science.  


Elisa took up the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights post, which is a part-time, pro-bono and independent position with the UN, on 1 May 2024. She is expected to serve for three years, renewable for another three years (therefore, until May 2030).  

The position is supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and generally requires: undertaking country visits; acting on individual cases of reported violations and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others; contributing to the development of international human rights standards, and engaging in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation. 

Specifically, her role entails providing independent analysis of how the adverse effects of climate change, including sudden and slow onset disasters, affect the full and effective enjoyment of human rights and making recommendations on how to address and prevent these adverse effects, in particular ways to strengthen the integration of human rights concerns into policymaking, legislation and plans addressing climate change, as well as in international cooperation and in the business sector. 

The role also entails to: 

  • Synthesise knowledge, including Indigenous and local knowledge, and identify good practices, strategies and policies that address how human rights are integrated into climate change policies and how these efforts contribute to the promotion and protection of all human rights and poverty alleviation; 
  • Promote and exchange views on lessons learned and best practices related to the adoption of human rights-based, gender-responsive, age-sensitive, disability-inclusive and risk-informed approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation policies, with a view to contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 14, to support the resilience and adaptive capacities of people in vulnerable situations to respond to the adverse impact of climate change; 
  • Raise awareness on the human rights affected by climate change, especially of persons living in developing countries particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing States, and encourage increased global cooperation in this regard; 
  • Facilitate and contribute to the exchange of technical assistance, capacity-building and international cooperation in support of national efforts, actions and measures to address the adverse impact of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights; 
  • Work closely with States and relevant stakeholders, including business enterprises, both transnational and others, to adopt a human rights perspective in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to mitigate potential adverse effects of their activities, including investment projects, on human rights in the context of climate change. 

Current activities of the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change 

Elisa is currently preparing two thematic reports in her new role. By mid-June, she will submit a scene-setting report to the Human Rights Council, to take stock of most recent international developments on climate change and human rights, including multiple UN processes that have clarified human rights standards related to climate change mitigation, adaptation and specific vulnerable groups in the last five years. The report will also provide an opportunity to reflect on the Advisory Opinion of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (expected on 21 May) and the requests for advisory opinions to the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, including the submissions made to the Inter-American Court. The report will be discussed in Geneva in early July. 

The second report is due in mid-July and will be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York in October. The report will focus on the specificities, challenges and good practices related to access to information on climate change and human rights as a pre-condition for the protection and exercise of all other human rights. The report will focus on States’ international obligations, individually and as part of international cooperation, as well as business responsibility to respect human rights in this context. The report will identify gaps and shortcomings, in relation to which the Special Rapporteur would seek to make constructive and concrete recommendations to help States strengthen access to information on climate change and human rights, as a view to supporting the exercise of procedural rights in the context of climate change, enhancing the effectiveness of decision-making processes, and better protecting substantive human rights that can be negatively impacted by climate change, including by preventing discrimination. A call for inputs into the report is open until 2 June here  and it’d be great if the ocean community could also contribute to it. 

Both reports will lay the ground for virtual regional consultations in late 2024 to define the priorities for the mandate moving forward. Elisa will attend the Bonn Climate Talks from 10-13 June and looks forward to engaging with the climate and human rights, ocean, and children rights experts, and Indigenous and local knowledge holders who will be there.  

Also, it would be great if the SDG14/ocean community would contribute to Elisa’s first call for inputs on access to information on climate change and human rights here, to inform the consideration of the ocean-climate nexus in her work going forward (read more here). 

You can reach Elisa Morgera  on X/twitter here and via email 

Cover photo: Hector Estrada (Pexels)

Related SDGs:

  • Climate action
  • Life below water