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Governance of Climate Change Panel Discussion

Panel discussion:

The Governance of Climate Change: Multilateralism, Human Rights and Democratic Deliberation

25 October 2022

Belval Campus, University of Luxembourg

Co-organized by the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, University of Luxembourg and the Association Luxembourgeoise pour les Nations Unies


Report by Ulisse Saverio Bassi

Student Assistant, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights


On the 25th of October 2022, the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights at the University of Luxembourg and the Association Luxembourgeoise pour les Nations Unies (ALNU) co-organized a panel discussion entitled “The Governance of Climate Change: Multilateralism, Human Rights and Democratic Deliberation”. The event took place in the Black Box, situated in the Maison des sciences humaines, on Campus Belval.

The meeting was moderated by Simone Beck, President of the Luxembourg Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO. The speakers invited for this panel were Anne Goedert, Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs; André Rollinger, President of the ALNU; and Gaëlle Tavernier, General Manager of Pro Sud, together with Professor Robert Harmsen, holder of the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, and Lisa Verhasselt, doctoral researcher from the University of Luxembourg.

The panel was opened with a set of open questions by the moderator, in which both the speakers and the Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO were also briefly presented. After this brief introduction, the panel entered into the heart of the matter.

The first presentation was given by Mr. Rollinger, who summarized the ALNU-led project on “Defenders and actors of human rights, indigenous peoples and peasants”, which brought together 50 students from three Luxembourgish secondary schools to discuss these crucial issues, resulting in the adoption by the participants of a detailed set of resolutions. At the end of the presentation, Mr. Rollinger stressed how important it is to promote education and intergenerational dialogues, giving knowledge and power to young people, as they are the ones who can make a real difference.

The following presentation was given by Professor Harmsen, who introduced the governance challenges by looking at the interactions between the climate change and human rights regimes. These two systems have come together only relatively recently, raising questions as to the exact place which should be assumed by human rights considerations in climate change policy. Relative to this, Professor Harmsen argued for a “rights-informed approach”. He concluded by briefly surveying the range of domestic and international challenges that need to be addressed, stressing the need to create deliberative space for citizens, the importance of the transparency of processes, the necessity of ensuring that cooperation on climate change can escape the more general erosion of multilateral institutions, and the (only partially addressed) imperative of giving greater voice to the unheard in international fora.

The third intervention saw Ambassador Goedert answer questions from the moderator. Drawing on her experience in the role of an ambassador at large, she presented the projects in which Luxembourg is involved, particularly in the context of the country’s current membership of the UN Human Rights Council. She highlighted the efforts of the Grand Duchy to contribute to the protection of children’s rights, the fight against gender inequalities, the fight against climate change, and the protection of human rights.

Ms. Verhasselt, in turn, discussed the functioning and recommendations of the two recent Luxembourgish climate assemblies, the Biergerkommitee 2050 and the Klima Biergerrot, as instances of deliberative democracy. Afer having presented the (comparatively ambitious) recommendations of the two deliberative bodies, Ms. Verhasselt then further summarized the finidngs of a survey conducted of the participants in the processes. This interestingly highlighted a strong belief in both the deliberative capacity and knowledgeability of citizens, but underlined that there was markedly less confidence in such exercises having an influence on the political process. The presentation nevertheless concluded by outlining the possible contributions of deliberative democracy to policymaking in response to climate change, enriching dialogue and understanding, while also potentially playing a wider agenda-setting role.

The final speaker was Ms. Tavernier, who presented the Minett UNESCO Biosphere project, which brings together 11 municipalities in the south of Luxembourg. The mission is to promote regional development, production of regional food, educational learning labs, and sustainable projects for tourism. The presentation focused on the governance and participatory aspects of the project, highlighting the manner in which it seeks to develop and advance a locally focused model of sustainability.

After all the presentations, a short but intense discussion was engaged with the public. One of the persons in the public intervened presenting himself as working for Pro Sud on the Minett UNESCO Biosphere project. He wished that more people could take part in the projects organized since they represent a possibility for young people to intervene and act concretely in the protection of the environment. Other questions addressed the broad themes of participation, democracy, and the fight against climate change, with a particular emphasis in the discussion on the need for wider civil society mobilization both prompting and moving beyond governmental action.

The event, which overall lasted around one and a half hours, was followed with great interest and enthusiasm by the audience of around fifty people, composed of students, professors, and members of the general public – no doubt reflecting the crucial – indeed, existential – importance of the issues under discussion.