If Daily Brief Readers Ran the World…, Daily Brief September 19, 2023

Daily Brief, September 19, 2023.


Yesterday, I highlighted this week’s General Debate at the UN in New York, where more than 140 leaders will be speaking about their priorities, and I asked you to give me yours.

We’ve received a bunch of responses from readers from various parts of the world, saying what human rights issues they would – and sometimes, would not – put at the top of their priorities. I’ll highlight a few of them here.

No question, addressing the climate crisis had the most support overall. Some put this at the top of their short list on social media, rightly noting our need for a livable planet, while others emailed me to add some detail or wider context.

Mary Robertson of the UK, for example, explained the importance of “ensuring that climate reparations/debt relief materialise for the Global South as a matter of urgency – with civil society deciding on how the money should be spent.”

Interestingly, too, a couple of folks got in touch to say that, while the climate crisis is certainly a top global concern, they wondered whether it was really a human rights issue. One asked whether it was perhaps something better tackled by environmental groups rather than human rights groups.

However, for me, as I’ve written here before in this newsletter, it’s very much a human rights concern, because addressing the climate crisis is not about saving the planet but about saving people.

The deadly impacts of climate change include more severe storms and droughts, and coastal cities facing rising sea levels. People, especially those most vulnerable, are at risk of losing (or have already lost) their homes, their livelihoods, their access to healthcare and education… Recall the example of Gardi Sugdub in Panama.

These are all human rights issues, and governments have an obligation to uphold human rights. They should thus address not just the consequences of climate change but also its root causes.

As for which type of non-governmental organizations should be working on the climate crisis, I’d argue there is room for everyone, each coming at the issue from their own angle. To revert to the language of my seafaring days – this is an “all hands on deck” situation.

But I digress, because climate change was far from the only issue Daily Brief readers mentioned after yesterday’s edition.

A number of readers raised the need to address inequality. Indeed, power differentials do tend to give rise to human rights abuses, so it’s a critical point.

Several people highlighted overpopulation as a core issue, saying this was yet another reason to defend women’s rights vigorously around the world.

Education popped up in many responses, too, as central to a just and equitable future.

Tackling corruption was also mentioned by a number of people. And yes, corruption too can be a human rights issue, because public resources lost to thieving politicians won’t get spent on things like education and health care, which are part of a government’s rights obligations.

Still others emphasized the need for global leaders to promote democracy around the world.

As for readers’ country-by-country concerns, they include: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and fears of what comes next, atrocities in Ethiopia, Pakistan’s troubles, and street children in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Responses are still arriving here, so do keep your ideas coming.