Jim Anaya is Distinguished Professor and the Nicholas Doman Professor of International Law at the University of Colorado Law School and one of three co-chairs of the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit steering committee.
The law school’s former dean, Anaya has lectured around the world, advised internationally on matters of human rights and Indigenous peoples, and represented Indigenous groups from many parts of North and Central America in landmark cases. He also participated in the drafting of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
What is the purpose of the summit?
The purpose is to raise awareness about the human rights problem—really a crisis—that climate change is, and to look for solutions. We're really concerned about climate change because of the impact it's going to have—and already is having—on the lives of human beings and the enjoyment of our basic human rights, such as the right to life, our health and the cultural practices many people engage in. We also want to talk about the responsibilities that governments and others have to address these human rights impacts under the international human rights norms that apply across the globe.
What makes CU Boulder the perfect university to co-host this event?
Our university has deep expertise in climate and energy, environmental studies through a multidisciplinary perspective, and also in human rights. With this wealth of expertise and perspective throughout the university, we're particularly well-suited to host an event like this with United Nations Human Rights.
What can people expect if they attend and who's the target audience?
Anybody interested in human rights. Anybody interested in the planet. Anybody interested in doing something about climate change. Anybody who fits one of those categories (which I think should really be all of us) should think about attending. The summit is going to be both in-person and online via webcasts. People should come expecting not just to listen, but to contribute to the ideas about solutions. There are many people across the globe—Indigenous peoples in the Arctic, for example, people in small island nations—who are feeling the effect of climate change in their everyday lives. We want people to hear from them.
How are you integrating perspectives from people experiencing these impacts?
There are groups in vulnerable situations, including Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and women and children, who are disproportionately feeling the impacts of climate change. We're making a very direct effort to include their voices by having people participate in leading roles in the summit. It's not just about hearing their stories. It's about learning. It's about a dialogue where we can all come together as a group of people concerned about climate change and talk about potential solutions.
Why are you personally excited about the global climate summit and why did you agree to serve on the steering committee?
Throughout my career I've touched upon issues of human rights that have to do with the natural environment, and more and more with the effects of climate change on the natural environment. I was very privileged to have worked with Inuit people in the Arctic in the early 2000s in presenting a claim to an international human rights body alleging violations of their human rights because of the effects of climate change on their lives. Since my involvement in that litigation, it's been very much an interest of mine as something that I think is very important and that I hope to contribute to in some small way.
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.