GENEVA – The fires that are ravaging the Amazon rainforest could have a “catastrophic impact on humanity as a whole,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned on Monday.
Speaking at the start of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet said the total death toll and harm done in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay in recent weeks “may never be known.”
Bachelet dedicated much of her speech, which opened three weeks of sessions, to the climate crisis.
Drawing on scientific evidence, she affirmed that the world had never seen such a big threat to human rights.
“This is not a situation where any country, any institution, any policy-maker can stand on the sidelines,” said Bachelet.
“The economies of all nations; the institutional, political, social and cultural fabric of every State; and the rights of all your people – and future generations – will be impacted.”
Regarding the Amazon, she urged authorities in Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil to implement environmental policies and incentives in a bid to stave off any “future tragedies.”
The human rights chief also denounced attacks on environmental activists “in virtually every region, particularly in Latin America.”
“I am disheartened by this violence, and also by the verbal attacks on young activists such as Greta Thunberg and others, who galvanize support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear,” said Bachelet.
Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who kicked off the “Fridays for Future” movement in a bid to force world leaders to take action to protect the planet and who has been fronting youth protests outside the UN’s headquarters in New York, has fallen victim to several verbal tirades on social media platforms.
Bachelet was opening the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body comprised of 47 states that strives to fight for human rights.