USC IIGH addresses climate change and its impacts on human rights through global collaboration

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The USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health (IIGH) has always included in its work a focus on sustainable development and climate change, including addressing the economic, social and political factors that fuel the relationships between power and poverty.  Research is ongoing, as are education and training opportunities. Building on strong relationships with local and global partners — including researchers, civil society, policymakers, governments and UN agencies — in the lead-up to COP26, USC IIGH has put its work on climate change, health and human rights front and center. 

In the past two weeks, IIGH has sponsored talks and a global conference to raise awareness and help build sustainable and equitable solutions. On Oct. 19, USC IIGH hosted Rachel Kyte, dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Dr. Kyte, named by Time magazine as one of the 15 most influential women leading the fight against climate change, has played a key role leading the UN Secretary General’s push for nations and companies commit to expediting the energy transition. Her lecture, “When Climate Change is Everything, How Do We Manage the World and Leave No One Behind?” highlighted the importance of inclusion and combating climate inequities through economic recovery and global governance restructuring. This free, public event brought in faculty and students from across the university. The event was held live and streamed online, and cosponsored by the Environmental Student Assembly, the USC Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, the USC Presidential Sustainability Working Group, the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, the USC Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (SCEHC), and the USC Center for Sustainability Solutions.

The following week, USC IIGH — in partnership with the UNSW Australian Human Rights Institute and The George Institute for Global Health — co-organized Health and Human Rights in the Climate Crisis: Charting Challenges and Solutions, a nine-day, large-scale global event leading up to COP26. Bringing together hundreds of practitioners, policy makers, artists, academics, students and activists, with folks from every continent — all with a shared concern for what is happening to our planet, and to the current and future impacts on the health and human rights of all people — Health and Human Rights in the Climate Crisis: Charting Challenges and Solutions  took place PDT Oct. 20–28, 2021, showcasing research, policies and practice form across the globe.

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, opened the conference drawing attention to the impacts of climate change on the right to health. Through a series of presentations, discussions and workshops, the conference galvanized attention and helped to create global understanding of these important linkages and the actions needed going forward. The conference closed with a conversation with the next generation of climate leaders, including Alexandria Villasenor, about the future of human rights, including the right to health, in climate action.

The full conference will be available for viewing soon. Drawing on our shared experiences of increasing climate threats — such as fire, floods and temperature rises — the conference serves as a call for the urgent action needed to address health and rights concerns in the climate crisis. USC IIGH is dedicated to working with all partners to ensure the pressure doesn’t stop once COP is past, that we hold our governments and businesses to account, and that climate stays at the center of all our concerns.

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