Part 2: One Ocean Hub participates in five panels for the 2023 Summer/Winter School for Human Rights & the Environment

By Senia Febrica, Andrea Longo, Milica Prokic, Buhle Francis, Taryn Pereira, Georgina Yaa Oduro, Mia Strand, Martha Jonas, Mathew Upton, Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster, Britney G. Nurse, Elisa Morgera, Holly Niner, Philile Mbatha & David Wilson

For the third year running, the Hub has collaborated with the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in  co-organising a series of panels for the GNHRE & UNEP Summer/Winter School for Human Rights & the Environment. This blog post summarises key messages highlighted by two Hub-led panels for the School that draw  attention to the links between a healthy ocean and human health and social-economic-justice issues.

This year the School ran from 11-15 September 2023 under the themes of transformative governance, (just) transition and the many dimensions of ‘change’ that enhance or threaten human rights and the environment. The School is held in collaboration with the University of Southampton Law School, with ongoing support from the Hub.

Ocean and human health: transitioning and transforming to an era of interdisciplinary competencies (11 September 2023). The event recording is available here.

Thispanel presented a diversity of experiences and perspectives, from a wide range of disciplines, spanning ocean science, human rights, planetary health and health law on the relationship between the ocean and human health. Panellists engaged in discussion to further understand ways to address critical knowledge gaps to develop effective policies for the sustainable use of marine resources and the protection of the human right to health.

 Key Messages
  • While the nexus between human and planetary health and the ocean is fundamental, the two disciplines largely operate in isolation to each other. Increasingly, however, both disciplines have recognised the need to collaborate, as a healthy ocean, from coastal waters to remote high seas and deep seabed areas, is integral to human health, wellbeing, and survival (Jenkins et. al., 2023). However, to bridge the gulf and maintain human health, a paradigm shift is needed both within and between the disciplines, to include engagement with the law of the sea, international environmental law, international human rights law and fair and inclusive climate change policy.
  • Understanding States’ due diligence and precaution in more transformative ways is thus required, through:

–     systemic thinking through the lens of everyone’s human right to a healthy environment;

–     emphasis on the role of biodiversity science with regard to human health;

–   close attention to foreseeable infringements of human rights that are dependent on marine biodiversity; and

–     the interlinkages between children’s rights to life, survival, health, development and a healthy environment.

  • We need to find a more comprehensive way to measure the impact that businesses are having on marine biodiversity, including by demonstrating the financial impacts of biodiversity loss and their consequences for businesses.
  • More needs to be done to share the benefits of marine biodiscovery and marine genetic resources fairly and equitably between the Global North and Global South, because biodiscovery research is complex, expensive, and not widely accessible to all the States and regions.
In terms of next steps,

The key messages from the Panel align with  the One Ocean Hub’s contributions to:

  1. the development of the new World Health Organization (WHO) Pandemic Preparedness Treaty and strengthening linkages within the context of the nexus between the ocean and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • the work of the UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights & the Environment and Human Rights & Climate Change;
  •  the UN guidance on economic, social and cultural rights and sustainable development;
  • the anticipated implementation of the agreement on conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement); and
  • ongoing research and policy on the nexus between the ocean and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Morgera and Lennan, 2022; 2023; Lennan and Morgera, 2022;  Morgera et. al., 2023 a; b; Shields et. al., 2023).

Panellists are preparing a short think piece with a Hub’s external partner  on the ocean and human health; co-developing the Hub’s synthesis research paper on human health; and planning joint writing moving forward on the Convention on the Biological Diversity (CBD) action plan and the WHO Pandemic Preparedness Treaty.

Transforming ocean conservation and sustainable use: rethinking blue economies in terms of environmental and socio-cultural justice. (13 September 2023). The event recording is available here.

This panel engaged attendees in a discussion on the contentious social-cultural justice issues surfacing as ocean-based economy development expands at scale. Drawing from the Hub research, panellists drew attention to the impacts of blue economy initiatives on Indigenous Peoples and local communities, the conflicts emerging among different ocean stakeholders over marine space and resources, and actions needed to achieve a just, inclusive, and healthy ocean.

Key Messages
  • It is critically important for stakeholders to shift their interpretation of blue economies strategies from economic gain centred definition towards more sustainable and equitable interpretation of blue economies that link ocean contribution to economic development with people and their cultural, spiritual, and long-term well-being.     
  • A renewed push to exploit ocean space and resources through large commercial fisheries and oil exploration in Ghana coupled with climate change have contributed to declining catches and displacement of small-scale fishers from spaces where they traditionally fish, live, and practice their culture.
  • In facing the social-economic-and cultural injustice posed by blue economies activities, small-scale fishers have taken an active role as human rights and ocean defenders. In South Africa small-scale fishers had taken large oil and gas company, Shell, to court, halting seismic surveys in the ocean. Their collective efforts established a new legal precedent, with the South African judiciary recognising the sacred relationship of the ocean as a realm for the ancestors, as we have showcased at World Oceans Day 2023.
  • States have obligations to regulate the private sector (including foreign investors) to prevent foreseeable negative impacts from blue economies on marine biodiversity and the livelihoods, health, food and culture of Indigenous Peoples, small-scale fishers and other ocean-dependent communities.
 Next Steps

–    Prof Elisa Morgera (University of Strathclyde, UK) and Taryn Pereira (Rhodes University, South Africa) and other Hub researchers are preparing an article for Human Rights Quarterly and three individual papers on ocean defenders, based on presentations made at the Bilbao Human Rights Defenders Conference in September 2023.

–   Key messages derived from this panel will be shared at the 14th Biennial Conference of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) in Ghana on 18-20 October 2023 by Dr Sulley Ibrahim, Conflict Research Network West Africa, Ghana Office.