Worldwide, climate change is already affecting directly and indirectly the agricultural productivity and ecology of some organisms because of changing patterns in crop production, livestock intensification, changing rainfall patterns, increased drought and flooding, and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases, as well as altering the transport pathways of chemical contaminants.
Consequently, climate change is expected to aggravate feed and food safety problems during all phases of food production and supply. M.C.Tirado, R. Clarke, L.A.Jaykus, A.McQuatters-Gollop, J.M.Frank stated in their research entitled “Climate change and food safety: A review” published in Food Research International (Vol. 43, Issue 7):
“Climate change and variability may have an impact on the occurrence of food safety hazards at various stages of the food chain, from primary production through to consumption. There are multiple pathways through which climate related factors may impact food safety including: changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, ocean warming and acidification, and changes in contaminants’ transport pathways among others. Climate change may also affect socio-economic aspects related to food systems such as agriculture, animal production, global trade, demographics and human behavior which all influence food safety.”
As human health inescapably relates to the consumption of safe and sufficient quantity of foods, climate change is expected to have considerable impacts on human health as a consequence of serious food contamination and food scarcity. Food hazards, including germs and chemical contaminants, can enter the food supply at any point from farm to table. Most of these hazards cannot be detected in food when it is purchased or consumed. In addition, consumption of insufficient amount of food due to food scarcity may lead to malnutrition and several foodborne diseases. Therefore, climate change by way of temperature increases, changing patterns in crop production, changes in rainfall patterns, toxic contaminations, food scarcity, increased drought and flooding etc. is resulting in worldwide increased water- and food-borne diseases and malnutrition. M. Herrera, R. Anadón, Shahzad Zafar Iqbal, J. D. Bailly, Agustin Ariño stated in their research entitled “Climate Change and Food Safety” published in Selamat J., Iqbal S. (eds) Food Safety. Springer, Cham (2016):
“Temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns will have an impact on the persistence and patterns of occurrence of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and harmful algae and the patterns of their corresponding foodborne diseases and the risk of toxic contamination. Chemical residues of pesticides and veterinary medicines in plant and animal products will be affected by changes in pest pressure.”
Therefore, incidences of water- and food-borne diseases are increasing globally. Water- and food-borne diseases are the result of ingestion of foodstuffs or water contaminated with microorganisms or chemicals, or diseases caused by malnutrition. These diseases encompass abroad spectrum of illnesses causing morbidity and mortality worldwide and their real overall health impact on the world population is yet unknown. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (“FAO”) stated in its research in 2008 entitled “Climate Change: Implications for Food Safety”:
“Evidence of the impact of climate change on the transmission of food and waterborne diseases comes from a number of sources, e.g. the seasonality of foodborne and diarrhoeal disease, changes in disease patterns that occur as a consequence of temperature, and associations between increased incidence of food and waterborne illness and severe weather events.”
Following the recurrence of serious events of food contamination and scarcity across the globe, food safety has become a matter of ever increasing international concern and the World Health Organization has defined foodborne diseases as a global public health challenge. Protecting global health from foodborne hazards is a compelling duty and a primary interest of both States and non-State actors; it calls for enhanced proactive cooperation between national and international institutions. Moving from the consideration that food safety issues and the enhancement of health security are of growing international concern, it is interesting to inquire whether the international community is provided with the appropriate legal instruments to face foodborne hazards globally. Unfortunately, the present state of international law on food safety regulation and governance is still unsatisfactory and reforms are desirable in many respects.
The “Right to Safe and Sufficient Food” in International Law
For the reasons stated above, international food safety is perceived as a global challenge. In the wake of a trend towards more efficient food safety policies, the 2007 Beijing Declaration on Food Safety gives voice to the global community’s concern that a comprehensive and integrated approach be adopted, prompting all stakeholders to take cooperative and concerted actions and strengthening links between the different sectors involved. The Declaration, in fact, recognizes that “integrated food safety systems are best suited to address potential risks across the entire food-chain from production to consumption” and that “oversight of food safety is an essential public health function that protects consumers from health risks”. In this perspective, it mainly urges States to develop transparent regulation to guarantee safety standards; to ensure adequate and effective enforcement of food safety legislation using risk-based methods; to establish procedures, including tracing and recall systems in conjunction with industry; to rapidly identify, investigate and control food safety incidents and to alert the World Health Organization (WHO) of those events falling under the revised international health regulations. In short, the Declaration expresses the need to understand food safety as both a national and an international responsibility.
Although emphasis is increasingly being placed on the concept of food safety, legal literature has seldom expanded on the status of a “human right to safe food” in international law. The right to safe food in human rights law is encompassed by both the right to health and the right to food. It is so closely interrelated with these fundamental human rights – being at the same time one of their integral components and an element upon which their realization is dependent.
Article 25, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) affirms that “[e]veryone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”, while article 12, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”) enunciates the right to health as “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. In its General Comment No. 14 on the domestic implementation of article 12 of ICESCR, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“the Committee”) interprets the right to health, as defined in article 12.1, as “an inclusive right extending not only to timely and appropriate health care but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable water and … [a]n adequate supply of safe food” (Comment No. 14, para. 11). As far as legal obligations are concerned, the Committee makes it clear that States Parties are under the obligation to adopt domestic laws aimed to ensure “the underlying determinants of health, such as nutritiously safe food and potable drinking water” (Comment No. 14, para. 36) and to provide for implementation of such legislation.
Moreover, the Committee reiterates the view expressed in General Comment No. 12 that guaranteeing “access to the minimum essential food which is nutritionally adequate and safe, to ensure freedom from hunger to everyone” is one of the core obligations incumbent upon States Parties to grant satisfaction of minimum essential levels of the right to health. In this context, obligations of immediate effect would encompass the duty to guarantee that all individuals under the jurisdiction of the State have equal access to safe and nutritious food; the duty to enact food safety and consumer protection legislation, including accountability measures; the duty to take all necessary steps to implement international regulations and standards.
In its general comment on the right to adequate food, the Committee underlines that “the right … is indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human person and is indispensable for the fulfillment of other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights” (Comment No. 12, para. 4). While recognizing that the right to adequate food is crucial for the enjoyment of all rights, the Committee considers that the core content of this right implies “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances” (Comment No. 12, para. 4).
Moreover, the relevance of food safety to the realization of the right to food both at national and international level is further emphasized by the Committee when it stresses that domestic policies of implementation of article 11 of ICESCR “should address critical issues and measures in regard to all aspects of the food system, including the production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of safe food” (Comment No. 12, para. 10), and that States and international organizations have a joint and individual responsibility to ensure that “products included in international food trade or aid programs … be safe” (Comment No. 12, para. 10).
Within the United Nations, the General Assembly has long adopted the same approach as the Committee, in resolution 63/187 of 18 December 2008 on the right to food the Assembly “reaffirms the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”. The Human Rights Council has repeated the same formula in its Resolution No. 7/14 on the right to food of 27 March 2008, the first adopted by the Council so far.
In different contexts, several international declarations and other soft law instruments have reaffirmed the individual right to adequate and safe food. The World Declaration on Nutrition, adopted by the FAO International Conference on Nutrition in December 1992, asserts that “access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is a right of each individual” (para. 1); the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security includes the States’ commitment to “implement policies aimed at eradicating poverty and inequality and improving physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food and its effective utilization [World Food Summit Plan of Action, para. 21 (b)]” and the Declaration adopted at the FAO World Food Summit: five years later in June 2002 confirms “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food” (preamble).
From this legal framework it can be inferred that in the human rights perspective it is generally recognized that every individual is entitled to food that is safe and of good quality, since safe food is functional to achieving freedom from hunger and enjoyment of the best attainable state of health; hence it is crucial for protecting life and human dignity. Clarifying whether this entitlement shapes an autonomous right, separate and distinguishable from the rights to adequate food and to health, and whether it can be considered a fundamental human right, will probably be the subject of further insights by future legal scholarship. It is worth considering, however, that food safety has been already defined “an inalienable right of each individual” (WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety: Safer Food for Better Health).
The Need to Move Forward
It is generally acknowledged that due to their transboundary dimension and their potential widespread impact on human health, climate change and food safety challenges demand close international cooperation and global governance. Following in the wake of a clear trend in international law and practice, we are now witnessing the emergence of a general principle on food safety, underpinned by the progressive affirmation of a human right to safe food, which requires that international standards and guidelines be voluntary complied with, legal obligations be fulfilled in good faith and all stakeholders at different levels play their proactive role in enhancing the international community’s preparedness and capacity of response to food safety threats.
It is in fact common view that protecting world health from foodborne illnesses and similar hazards is to be seen as a compelling duty and a primary interest of both States and non-State actors. While food safety governance at the global level calls for multi-sectoral approaches and multi-level cooperation to minimize the effects of food safety related public health events, international law can still count on a limited set of legal instruments.
In fact, in the wake of climate change, the present state of international law on food safety regulation has faults and drawbacks, as authoritatively confirmed by Professor Francis Snyder:
“Food supply insecurity and unsafe food are tolerated, encouraged or even positively promoted by many aspects of current international law. Serious reform is essential if we want to create an international law for (and not just ‘of’) adequate food”.
Therefore, it is to be hoped that the joint efforts of the major international organizations involved at both the universal and the regional level (WHO, FAO, WTO) – which point towards the prospective enhancement of the degree of cooperation among international actors, State authorities and private stakeholders – will succeed in shaping an improved legal framework for food safety governance, which may benefit from the commitment of both international and national institutions. In such an evolving and interdependent scenario, national initiatives concerning targeted domestic legislation can indeed be welcomed as positive steps forward whenever they substantially contribute to realizing the right to safe and adequate food, introduce accountability measures, and strengthen foodborne disease monitoring and surveillance systems.
By focusing only on international law norms and obligations, this essay aims to offer a contribution to the current debate on food safety, with the awareness that it represents only a starting point for further analysis and more in-depth reflections on the innovations and developments needed in food safety regulation to achieve the compelling objective of protecting world health.
Human Trafficking in South Asia: Combating Crimes against Women
Human trafficking is a lucrative crime with instant results, an offence of grave circumvention of human existentialism and a slap on the global security wall. While confronting human trafficking still remains an unfulfilled obligation of the international community as it is a global problem. However, SAARC has also committed to stamping it out while realizing its causes such as rampant poverty, inaccessible healthcare, gender discrimination, class conflicts, and minority injustices. South Asia is a region that is encountered with challenges of human rights such as prevention of human trafficking in women and children for prostitution, devising legal protection for children and evolving mechanism for combating terrorism. In South Asia, human rights discourse has become more intense in the wake of external castigation of its human rights record. Indeed, many Western governments and human rights watchdog institutions perceive South Asia as a reservoir of multi-dimensional discrimination in every walk of life. SAARC governments are mired in human rights transgressions contrary to their constitutional vision, mandate, and the rule of law, democracy, and good governance. South Asian consciousness against corruption, respect for governance institutions, human dignity, and probity in public and private life have been depleting at a pace that has not been experienced before.
Norberto Bobbio—an Italian philosopher—rightly expressed that the supremacy of human rights in present political and legal discourse as a revolutionary upsetting of the primordial practices in ruminating the primary task of moral philosophy to evolve in the designing of a compendium of duties instead of rights. From Two Tablets of Moses to Cicero’ De officiis including Immanuel Kant’s Sittenlehre which was construed as an edifice of duties raising the question in Kant’s second Critique is not “What are my rights?” but it posed “What should I do?” Therefore, the human rights situations of SAARC region cannot be assessed in total disregard of its historical and regional circumstances, nor can it be analyzed as per the preconceived model, tradition or standard of another region. Therefore, people of South Asia derived their viewpoints on human rights issues from their historical circumstances and practical experiences and formulated relevant policies and laws. However, Article 3 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000):
“Trafficking in Persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
In this context, it is everyday human rights issues that determine the directions in which people are capable of living their lives in South Asia and elsewhere, they are of tremendous significance not only to all of us as individuals but also to us as members of South Asian society. Therefore, everyday human rights issues should be central to our collective social memory and practice just like certain international and domestic human rights events, victories, abuses and personages. The challenge, however, lies in trying to make these everyday issues attractive and newsworthy enough to capture people’s attention. What role can media play in illuminating these everyday human rights issues? Let’s try critically to analyze the questions arising out of the “SAARC Convention on Combating and Prevention of Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution”, the strengthening and enforcing of SAARC Convention on Promotion of the Child Welfare in South Asia and SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism in the light of on-going conceptual deliberations.
Human trafficking comes with a modern visage that derives its contours from antiquity and known as modern day slavery. Human trafficking is resorted by employing fraud, force, and coercion for prostitution, debt bondage, forced labour. Age and gender barriers are irrelevant in human trafficking as it is evident from the trafficked women of all ages, men, young children and teenagers. However, human trafficking is a global issue that has been affecting Global North and Global South countries alike and attained the proportions of organized crime. Human trafficking in women and children for prostitution has become a global trend and an offense that has been mushrooming and affecting almost every nook and corner of the world both as sources of passage or destination country. As per the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes), victims from at least 127 countries have been recognized, and it is projected that a criminal is exploiting more than 2.4 million people at any given time. The ILO expects that there are 2.4 billion people in the world at any given time involved in forced labour and subjected to exploitation due to human trafficking. Around 800,000 women and children are trafficked every year across international borders out of which 80% are ending in forced prostitution. This projection does not include those trafficked within their own countries or missing children. Human trafficking in women and children for prostitution is a grave violation of human rights and has been regarded as a modern form of slavery. The United Nations projects that the trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution in Asia has victimized more than 30 million people. According to the OECD Reports, the human trafficking industry ranks among the top three highest grossing illegal criminal industries along with illicit drugs and arms. The study shows that over 160 countries across the world are known to be affected by human trafficking. It means that human trafficking is a terrible global reality and statistics adumbrated above would bleed the heart of every right-thinking person.
Thus, human trafficking poses an extreme threat to human rights and human dignity of considerable people in various parts of the world. It stays one of the least understood forms of transnational crime, with significant gaps existing in both the data on the incidence as well as differences in the ability of lawmakers to appropriately address the problem in their respective countries. Human trafficking is a life-threatening violation of human rights because of the involuntary manner in which trafficked victims are entrapped, transported, recruited and subsequently subjected to abuses and exploitation. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for South Asia, (UNODC-ROSA) and the UN Women, South Asia signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which they committed to strengthening the present levels of cooperation in dealing with the organized crime of human trafficking in the eight SAARC countries. According to Article 1 of the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution, 2002 “trafficking” denotes that the:
“moving, selling or buying women and children for prostitution within and outside a country for monetary or other considerations with or without the consent of the person subjected to trafficking.”
Unfortunately, there is no universal definition of trafficking, and the SAARC domestic laws even now lack a shared understanding of trafficking. Although India has a specific law on trafficking, but it does not define trafficking; it represents “prostitution” to have the usual attributes of trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, to determine the efficacy of criminal justice systems in South Asia and their effectiveness in addressing trafficking, it is essential to compare the standards in South Asia to the UNTOC standards as embodied in the Trafficking Protocol. The Protocol is reasonably comprehensive regarding looking at a variety of strategies to combat cross-border trafficking. Therefore, these gaps have raised several questions which have to be attended such as:
How to identify the administrative weaknesses in the enforcement system of anti-trafficking mechanism on a comparatively footing in South Asia?
Why there is a low number of arrest, prosecutions, and convictions for human trafficking in SAARC jurisdictions?
What are the reasons for insignificant legal integration of human rights, gender and child rights in domestic anti-trafficking laws and policies in SAARC countries?
What is the threshold of repressive state protection, prevention efforts in trafficking prone areas in SAARC jurisdictions?
Human trafficking encompasses recruitment, transfer, transportation, harbouring of persons through the use of duress, force, fraud, or coercion for exploitation. Economic inequalities, social disparities, and politico-cultural conflicts have led to the human mobility within all SAARC jurisdictions and across the borders in South Asia. Globalization has encouraged free movement of capital, technology transfer, expert exchanges, and sex service tours. Socioeconomic dependency, gender disparity, Illiteracy, cultural stereotypes, violence, social stigmatization, and endemic poverty inter-aliasociological deprivation of women and children in power-sharing, non-negotiable situations that have pandered to the emergence and mushrooming of the commodious problem of women trafficking in the entire SAARC region. This alarming spread of sex trafficking has fuelled the spread of HIV infection in South Asia, posing a unique and severe threat to community health, poverty alleviation and other crucial aspects of human development. Although the SAARC Convention on Trafficking in Women and Children has been a significant breakthrough, most of the SAARC countries do not have anti-trafficking legislation or means to protect the victims. Therefore, SAARC countries must make a concerted effort to treat women trafficking victims as “victims” of human rights transgressions in all their anti-trafficking policies and practices.
Abolition of women trafficking is inescapably a long-term process that involves a catena of causes like poverty, education, gender inequality, minority rights, and healthcare along with dismantling the actions of criminal syndicates. By its very nature, women trafficking for prostitution are a surreptitious crime for which adequate and comparable statistical data is rarely available. As of January 2017, 170 nation-states have ratified the Additional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which was adopted in 2000 (also known as Palermo Protocol) and India has even ratified it. The Palermo Protocol was the first international legally binding instrument with an agreed definition of human trafficking. However, there is an urgent necessity for greater collaboration between security agencies of South Asian countries to protect the victims. The key challenges to human trafficking in South Asia are porous borders, growing trade links, incoherent approach, lingual hurdles and time-consuming process of identification, verification, coordination, and implementation. Thus, it highlights the need for greater collaboration and assistance to rehabilitate and rescue victims of trafficking. At the same time, the UNODC South Asia must assist SAARC countries to develop comprehensive and sustainable responses to trafficking in persons. Such interventions include the prosecution of perpetrators, protection, and assistance of victims and, most importantly, prevention measures. SAARC jurisdictions countries have to have a unified and integrated action against human trafficking in the spirit of shared responsibility.
Environmental Governance and Human Rights: The Role of The Civil Society And Challenges in India
The Indian judiciary is often credited for developing environmental jurisprudence in India. The Indian courts have devised and put to use a unique method of imparting environmental justice-doing away with the principle of locus standi and devising Public Interest Litigations (PILs) instead. Moreover, environmental governance largely rests in the hands of the government, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) being the nodal agency in the administrative structure of the Central Government for the planning, promotion, co-ordination and overseeing the implementation of India’s environmental and forestry policies and programmes. However, active participation of the local communities, farmers, students, environmental activists, academicians, lawyers, NGOs and members of Civil Society in galvanizing the government machinery for establishing and implementing norms related to the environment as well as in mobilizing the masses for environmental causes must not be overlooked. While the top-down approach followed by the Judiciary in recognizing and enforcing environment principles is often appreciated, the bottom-up approach adopted by the civil society to strive for environmental justice also deserves mention.
Civil Society and Environmental Governance-An Interface
Although there is no clear-cut definition of civil society, it is mostly understood in contrast to the state. Cohen defines civil society as “we understand “civil society” as a domain of social exchange between economy and state, comprised above all of the close area (especially the family), the sphere of associations (especially voluntary groups), social movements, and forms of public communication. Modern civil society is created through forms of self-constitution and self-mobilization. It is institutionalized and generalized though laws, and especially subjective rights, that stabilize social differentiation. While the self-creative and institutionalized dimensions can exist separately, in the long term both independent action and institutionalization is necessary for the reproduction of civil society.”The American writer Jeremy Rifkin calls civil society “our last, best hope’’; New Labour politicians in the UK see it as central to a new “project” that will hold society together against the onrush of globalizing markets, the United Nations; the United Nations and the World Bank see it as one of the keys to “good governance” and poverty-reducing growth. The membership of the civil society is quite diverse, ranging from individuals to faith-based and educational institutions to pressure groups such as NGOs or not-for-profit organizations.
Governance is often described as a new form of regulation that differs from traditional hierarchical state activity (‘government’). Generally, ‘governance’ implies notions of self-regulation by societal actors, of private-public cooperation in the resolving of societal issues and new forms of multilayered policy. Environmental Governance is defined as the process that links and harmonizes policies, institutions, procedures, tools and information to allow participants (public and private sector, NGOs, local communities) to manage conflicts, seek points of consensus, make fundamental decisions, and be accountable for their actions. In the context of Global Environment Governance, Gemmmill and Bamidele-Izu have identified the following five major roles which civil society might play in global environmental governance: (1) collecting, disseminating, and analyzing information; (2) providing input to agenda-setting and policy development processes; (3) performing operational functions; (4) assessing environmental conditions and monitoring compliance with environmental agreements; and (5) advocating ecological justice. The increasing role of civil society in global environmental diplomacy is often explained with two arguments: 1) Civil society representatives provide valuable information and expertise to governments and thus help them reach “better,” that is, more effective, agreements. This information provision role becomes particularly important when governments face budgetary constraints. 2) They provide legitimacy to intergovernmental negotiations and thus mitigate the “democratic deficit” in global policy making, which takes place far away from domestic political arenas and the national demos.
Environmental Movements in India and Role of Civil Society
The environmental movement is a type of “social mobility that involves a group of individuals and alliances that perceive a common interest in environmental protection and act to bring about new changes in environmental policies and practices.”In India, these movements emerged as a response to the environmental challenges arising due to the developmental policies espoused by governments. The Chipko Movement or the Chipko Andolan was perhaps one of the first ecological movements which saw the participation of marginalized and tribal communities in forest conservation. Starting as Forest Satyagraha in the 1930s in Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand), the movement has spread too many other States in India like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka by 1980s. The upsurge of similar environmental movements, demanding that forest ownership and management must revert from state to communal hands and that local communities should be actively involved in afforestation programs brought significant changes in government’s policy about forest management. A large number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) ably assisted the environmental movements in their efforts: the directory of environmental NGOs in India published in 1989 lists 879 large and small NGOs spread throughout the country of which half were involved with forest-related issues.
The success of this collaborative struggle was reflected in India’s National Forest Policy of 1988 and the Circular on Joint Forest Management of 1990. In revising its national forest policy in 1988, the Indian government for the first time declared that forests were not only to be commercially exploited but must also contribute to soil conservation, environ mental protection, and the survival needs of the local population. Another significant environmental movement in the history of modern India is the movement against the Silent Valley Project. The Silent Valley is a stretch of Tropical Evergreen Forest in Pallakad district of Kerala. The Movement was launched against the decision of the State government to build a hydroelectric dam across the Kunthipuzha River that runs through the Silent Valley. However, because of the strong opposition from NGOs, conservationists, academicians and eminent writers, corporate and political leaders along with the media, Silent valley was declared a protected area in 1981 and the Project was called off in 1983.
The Save the Narmada Movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan, NBA) is the people’s movement launched against the construction of huge dams on the river Narmada. NBA is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that mobilized tribal people, adivasis, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against the Sardar Sarovar Dam being build across the Narmada River, Gujarat. Their campaign led to the establishment of a Bank commission in 1991 to independently review the project, which ultimately recommended the World Bank’s withdrawal. One of the most important features of these environmental movements in India has been the active involvement and participation of local voluntary organizations or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). For example, Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal (DGSM),a cooperative organization started by Chandi Prasad Bhatt actively participated in the Chipko Movement along with activist Sunder Lal Bahguna. Inspired by Gandhian principles of Non-violence and the idea of Sarvodaya (self-determination), the cooperation educated the village-community and mobilized them against the logging of trees.
Similarly, the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) started the agitation against the Silent Valley Project. KSSP, a People’s Science Movement (PSM) founded in 1962 from Kerala published a socio-political report on the ecological, economic, and social impacts of the hydro-electric project proposed in the Silent Valley. The Movement also saw the participation of eminent poets and writers, who educated the masses about the significance of the valley through stories, poems, dramas, speeches, and articles. Poet-activist Sugathakumari’s poetry “Marathinu Stuthi” (Ode to a Tree) became the opening song/prayer of most of the “save the Silent Valley” campaign meetings. The KSSP also worked for the energy needs of the State and developed environmental- friendly alternatives such as smokeless chulhas and irrigation using ground water to the optimum extent. The alternatives suggested by the organization were widely adopted or practiced that the UNESCO conferred its Right to Livelihood Award on KSSP and the UNEP included it in its `Roll of Honour. The protest groups formed in all three affected states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and included or were supported by persons facing displacement, students, social activists, Indian environmental NGOs, international NGOs, and transnational networks. The support groups of Narmada Bachao Andolan mainly of activist groups and registered NGOs mainly classified into three main groups- those with interest in human rights, the environment, and alternative development.
Environmental Human Rights and Environmental Justice: The Legal Strategies and the Role of Civil Society
India owes its environmental activism mostly to Public Interest Litigations (PIL) developed by Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice Krishna Iyer, two Supreme Court judges in the 1980s. The Supreme Court of India declared that “where a wrong against community interest is done, the principle of locus standi will not always be a pre-requisite to draw the attention of judiciary against a public body for their failure in discharging constitutional duties.” By taking on board the citizens’ concern about an inactive or indifferent legislature and executive, the Supreme Court has created space for the civil society groups to engage as active participants in the scheme for protecting the environment and ensuring an individual right to a healthy environment. As a result, in some cases, civil society groups have put forward different views on development activities such as the socio-cultural and environmental impact of development policy in the environmental decision-making process. Moreover, by allowing the third party to file cases related to the environment, the court has given voice to the inanimate objects, like forests and rivers, which cannot represent themselves in courts.
However, the role played by concerned citizens and NGOs in filing these PILs is essential. A number of these cases, beginning with the Dehradun Lime Stone Quarrying case (1989 AIR 594) followed by the Tehri Dam case (AIR 2008 MP 142),Bichhri Village Industrial Pollution case, (Writ Petition No. 967/1989)Vellore Leather Industry Pollution case, (AIR1996SC2715) Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary case (1993 SCR (3) 21) and T.N. Godavarman case ((1996) 9 S.C.R. 982) came to court’s attention through Public Interest Litigations and were filed by either Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)or concerned citizen/environmental activists on behalf of other persons or groups or public. Several environmental activists like MC Mehta have filed PILs in Supreme Court of India to protect the environment. The lawyer cum environmental-activist, single-handedly, has filed petitions in the courts to protect the environment. Landmark environmental cases filed by him include the Taj Mahal case, ((1997)2 SCC 353) Ganges Pollution case (1988 AIR 1115), Vehicular Pollution case (AIR 1999 SC 301),Oleum Gas Leak Case(1987 SCR (1) 819), Kamal Nath Case ((1997)1 SCC 388) and many other such cases.
The Supreme Court Case Reports show that that out of 104 environmental cases from 1980-2000 in the Supreme Court of India, 54 cases were filed by persons who were not directly the aggrieved parties and 28 cases were filed by the NGOs on behalf of the affected parties. What makes these cases interesting is that in most of them, the Supreme Court has read environmental rights into basic fundamental rights (especially Article 21) guaranteed under the Constitution, thus making them a bedrock of environmental jurisprudence in India. The Supreme Court has also taught various environmental principles like Sustainable Development, Polluter’s Pay Principle, Precautionary Principle, Public Trust Doctrine and Principle of Absolute Liability into these cases, and thus, within environmental jurisprudence.
Environmental Governance Challenges: The Road Ahead
Indian Courts, while deciding upon an environmental issue, are often confronted with the problem of striking a balance between development needs of India and protection of the environment. For example, in Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun v. The State of Uttar Pradesh(AIR 1985 SC 652), the Supreme Court, was informed about the developmental needs of the region that the closure of the mining operations would result in and the subsequent loss of jobs by the workers. The Court took the position that its action would undoubtedly cause hardships to them, but argues that it was the price that had to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the rights of the people to live in the healthy environment with minimal disturbance of the ecological balance and with avoidable hazard to them and their cattle, homes and agricultural land. The case is the classic example of the dilemma faced by the courts in resolving the debate between development and environment.
However, the problem faced in the enforcement of the decisions of the courts is more acute. In many respects, the Indian government machinery has failed to adequately enforce the existing environmental laws and the decisions of the court. Although there are many causes for this failure, the primary reason is corruption. While the judiciary has acted as the savior of environmental rights in India, the implementation of these rights has been highly problematic. Corruption exists at all levels of governments in India and its impact on the environment is profound, and amount to a clear violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. One of the other reasons why executive has not been able to enforce environmental laws and decisions effectively is the inefficiency of the administrative bodies concerned with the implementation of these laws. Since environmental concerns came into existence under the pressure of environmentalists and NGOs in India, therefore, one finds a piecemeal approach rather than an integrated approach at the planning level. Vyas and Reddy point out the problems in environmental governance in India, i.e. lack of coordination between various departments concerned with environmental issues. He notices that the functioning of various departments does not reflect the concern of the policy-makers towards environment since most of these departments are ineffective in implementing the environmental policies due to the limited powers are given to them.
Moreover, they do not have resources to assess the extent of environmental degradation scientifically. This lack of coordination seriously affects the implementation of laws and policies related to the environment. Another concern in this regard is the role played by the masses in implementation of the court’s orders. For example, in the Delhi Vehicular Pollution Case, the role of civil society, especially citizens, is criticized. In this case, despite Court’s pivotal role, lack of public participation was responsible to some extent for slow progress in cleaning up of Delhi air. To make the policies effective the available human resources capacity need to be augmented to address the environmental issues.
Long before the courts in India started delivering landmark judgments for protecting the environment, the civil society has generated enough environmental consciousness amongst the people to stand against any major destruction of the ecosystem they thrive on. Various social cum environmental movements spread along the country made it evident that people at the grass root, who are directly affected by the developmental policies persuaded religiously by the governments, will not surrender their cultural and social rights easily. These subaltern movements saw unprecedented participation and support of people from all walks of society; villagers, women, academicians, lawyers, students, activists, politicians, and NGOs. The environmental consciousness generated by and in the civil society as a result of these movements later found expression in the form of Public Interest Litigations. PILs became a tool in the hands of environmental crusaders and activists to persuade the government to uphold the rights of the citizens. However, the road for achieving environmental justice in India is fraught with challenges. The courts are often faced with the dilemma of choosing between development and environment, and the decisions are often not implemented in the way courts have meant them to be implemented. The reason is the lack of efficient machinery and widespread corruption.
70 Years On: UN Declaration on Human Rights from the lens of Victimology
Authors: Srimal Fernando and Vipin Vijay Nair*
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations (GAUN) 70 years ago, nonetheless, is more relevant to the future and today’s society. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this landmark declaration requires major attention. However, these defining characteristics of the UDHR constitute not only its strength, but also its weaknesses. This important milestone in the UN history is a testament to the commitment of the UN to global rules and values. On this important occasion of the 70th anniversary of UDHR her press statement on 9th December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, “the document has gone from being an “aspirational treatise” to a set of standards that has “permeated virtually every area of international law”.
The most meaningful words of UN High Commissioner on the notion of human rights resonates in today’s discourse. In the recent past conflicts, migration related issues, racial polarization and inequalities have played a large role in breakdown of societies. Given the uncertainties, the numbers of people victimized due to hate crimes are unquestionably high. The distrust of reason is perhaps one of the most important traits of such issues. In fact, one could argue that victimology, as a subject doesn’t immediately spring to the mind over these issues or as a problem-solving method. There is no doubt of Victimology as a branch of criminal justice studies has been responsible for the expanding knowledge focusing on the victims of crimes. Perhaps in order to understand the dynamics of victimization, Victimologists offers a more realistic picture about Victimology as a domain of social science. Hence the introduction of victimology was major step forward in strengthening the fundamental principals of the Universal Declaration.
Looking at some characteristics of victimology narratives within the judicial proceedings requires alternative behavioral and forensic science methods to investigate the causes, is a part of a larger study of the victimology specialty. Therefore, the element Forensic victimology, a sub-division of victimology reinforces and is closely linked to criminal justice studies. In this context Forensic victimology analyses victim’s lifestyle and circumstances, the events leading up to their injury, and looks into the precise nature of any harm or loss that he or she had suffered.
While some nations looked for new laws to prohibit hate crime against individuals or groups, others sought the answers in solving this pertaining issuing relating to victimology using home grown methods. Various intervention strategies have been implemented in the recent past. There are various laws, declaration, codified rules and regulation that prevent individual under the international law, but these are working towards penalizing the wrong-doer and not focusing on the overall aspect and perspective of the crime. In the global context, laws that prohibit any type of hate crime against an individual or groups were partially fruitful. Very few countries in European Union, North and South America have focused on implementing laws against hate crime. However, 45 states in America expanded this law and was major step forward. Unquestionably, the most renowned organizations in the world such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Criminal Court (ICC), The World Society of Victimology (WSV) holding consultative status with UN and Council of Europe, International Criminal Justice Institutes and other related agencies have been playing a realistic role intervening in furthering of victimology subject. International consensus is growing on human rights and freedom’s discourses that is designed to look beyond the victim stereotype and improves the policies relating to the prevention of crimes as well as to look into the victim themselves.
*Vipin Vijay Nair is Doctoral Research Scholar at Jindal Institute of Behavioral Sciences (JIBS) and a Research Fellow at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS)
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