5 February 2013

S4M-05556 Human Rights

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-05556, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on promoting and protecting human rights in Scotland, Europe and the wider world.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I very much welcome this timely debate and the work that the Scottish Human Rights Commission is undertaking in this policy area. It definitely shows the way for many others around the globe.

I respect Jenny Marra’s engagement in the subject of trafficking, which is well established and entirely proper, but I would have preferred to see a broader-based amendment. There are a large number of issues and trafficking is important, but by no means the only one.

In a short contribution, it is proper to focus on a narrow facet of what is inevitably a wide subject. Once again, I will talk about climate justice; it is a geographically wide topic, but relatively narrow in policy terms. It is an area in which the rich impose an inescapable cost on the poor.

In 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council recognised that

“human rights obligations and commitments have the potential to inform and strengthen international and national policy making in the area of climate change”.

I very much welcome the progress and engagement that our Government has made so far: the establishment of the climate justice fund, which reaches out to many other countries; the memorandum of understanding with the Inter-American Development Bank; carbon capture work with the Republic of South Africa; commonwealth saltire professional fellowships; and so on. A great deal is going on.

I also very much welcome President Obama’s appointment of John Kerry as part of his new Administration, which is a very encouraging sign of potential for movement in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. I had the privilege to hear John speak at a UN conference and if he is able to deliver in government what he referred to in that speech, real progress will be made.

I regularly track the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice, which has laid out a number of headings, and I immediately want to pick up on gender equality and impact. It is in that area that the impacts appear to be happening fastest and the effects have the most direct potential to kill adults and, more especially, children. As temperatures rise across the globe, aridity follows and crop failures are an inevitable consequence. In many of the poorest countries in the world, women are at the front line. They are the primary farmers, who now have less food and have to walk further for fuel and water. They absolutely live on the margin. Women in poorer countries pay the price for our higher standard of living.

We will see migration, and the inevitable consequence is that much of that migration will be into countries that are only a little less poor. We cannot morally live with a policy and practice of spreading the poverty around more widely. We have to help countries mitigate the effects of climate change. The Government is doing something on that; I hope that all Governments, including our own, will do more.

We need to be committed as citizens and as Governments to turn down the world’s thermostat. I want us to equip others to act on mitigation.

I acknowledge Labour’s long-term record of engagement on human rights, which is worthy of praise. However, the real challenge is to address the constitutional issue, so that we can do much more.


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