Climate Change and Human Rights: The Case of the Ethiopian Famine

Author
Melissa Rary
Content Type
Working Paper
Institution
Center on Human Rights Education, University of Denver
Abstract
With effects of climate change becoming more prominent, it is important to examine what climate change will mean in terms of human rights and the impact on the most vulnerable populations. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizes “increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases” as a few of the many adverse effects resulting from climate change. Moreover, these issues threaten the enjoyment of the most basic rights including right to life, water, food, sanitation, among many others. Ethiopia, a country with over 80% of its population living in multidimensional poverty, is no beginner when it comes to dealing with famines. The Ethiopian Civil war began with a coup d’etat in 1973, which was largely a result of unrest after Emperor Haile Selassie refused to respond to the 1972 famine. In 1984, Ethiopia suffered a worse, more publicized famine, which is said to have killed over a million people. International initiatives were able to secure international aid, but political instability into 1991 led to lower rates of development as compared to its other Sub-Saharan neighbors. In the midst violence, a large sector of the Ethiopian population was lost, and the Ethiopian economy collapsed as a result of the government’s resistance to welcome international aid in rebel-controlled areas. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was established in 1991 and was followed by a shift in Ethiopia’s resistance to international aid, ultimately jumpstarting the upwards trend of development.
Topic
Climate Change, Environment, Human Rights, Famine
Political Geography
Africa, Ethiopia