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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, took part in the world conference on sustainable development this month in Rio. Before her departure Roy Brown, speaking on behalf of IHEU at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, gave her some advice.

Here is the text of Roy’s speech

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 20th Session 18 June – 9 July 2012

Speaker: IHEU Main Representative, Roy W Brown, Monday 18 June 2012

Agenda Item 2: Report of the High Commissioner

Human Rights and Sustainable Development

Thank you, Madam President

We congratulate the High Commissioner on her reappointment and are delighted that she will now have a little longer to “speak truth to power”.

We also welcome the news that she will be attending Rio + 20. It is vital that all approaches to sustainable development have at their centre respect for human rights.

Madam President, there are two main threats to the sustainability of human civilisation: the increasing use of the world’s limited resources, and the increasing number of people who need them. The first requires a major move to renewable energy together with a decrease in the per capita consumption of non-renewable resources. The second requires a far more positive response to world population which, according to current UN projections, will grow by 30% (that is a further 2 billion) over the next 40 years.

But all calls to limit population growth – which can only come about by reducing average family sizes – must respect the human rights of all concerned.

Happily – yet this is not at all widely understood – the best and most effective way to limit population growth is not by coercion, but by respecting the right of families to freely decide the number and spacing of their children, and by doing everything possible to raise the status of women and respect for their human rights. Yet so entrenched has been religious and other opposition that there is still a vast unmet need for family planning in most developing countries.

We urge the High Commissioner to make very clear in Rio that Human Rights – and in particular reproductive rights and health – are not a net cost to this planet but offer a major net benefit, and are absolutely vital if human life on Earth is to have a sustainable future.

Thank you, Madam.

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