Eve Bain represents New Zealand at the LabCitoyen programme [fr]

Taking place in Paris from the 5th to the 15th of July 2015 is the third edition of the LabCitoyen programme, participating in which will be 81 representatives - aged 18 to 28 - of 53 different nationalities. These representatives are all involved in actions for Human Rights and the defence of freedoms. Developed in view of the organisation of the COP21 in Paris, the 2015 edition is dedicated to the theme “Human rights in the face of environmental challenges”.

Eve Bain, a young law student at Victoria University, was chosen by a French-New Zealand selection committee to represent New Zealand at this new edition. We met her a few days before her departure for Paris.

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(G - D): Attaché de coopération, M. Raphaël ISNARD, Eve BAIN, Attaché de coopération pour le français, M. Patrick COUSTANCE.

Eve, you will soon be bearing the colours of New Zealand during the next edition of the LabCitoyen programme in Paris. Tell us about your background and the reasons which drew you towards the subject of human rights:

It was at the age of 14 that I decided to direct myself towards this path after having participated in the Model United Nations programme organised in New Zealand by UN Youth. This initial encounter with the issue of human rights was a real revelation for me. The theme, that year, was deforestation but we also discussed a lot of other international subjects. After this conference, I decided to steer myself towards a curriculum combining law, languages and international relations.

Later, I was lucky to be able to participate in the international edition of the Model United Nations which took place at The Hague, where we visited the International Criminal Court and met Sir Kenneth Keith, the first and only New Zealand judge appointed to the ICC. Sir Keith is an inspiration for me because he is the proof that New Zealanders can also have their place in international fora, just like Helen Clark at the UN.

Since then, I myself have hoped to specialise in international law. It was with this in mind that I started learning French, particularly because in international institutions such as the United Nations, the languages used are English and French (even if at the UN there are six official languages).

Another example, at international courts, all decisions are drafted in French. In the context of my studies, I have also noticed that many reference articles are only available in French. And also, it’s French gastronomy and culture which made me want to learn the language. For me, to speak another language, it’s to really understand another people’s culture and perspective.

This is one of the reasons I decided to apply for LabCitoyen. It’s simple; all my interests are joined together in one programme: French, law, climate change and what’s more, it’s in Paris.

I am also very inspired by the issue of human rights. Incidentally, I consider that they are the foundation of international law through the signature in 1948 of the universal declaration of human rights. That there is a clear example that various countries of the world can cooperate!

The LabCitoyen programme focuses on human rights and more specifically this year on “Human rights in the face of environmental challenges”. According to you, what is the impact of climate change on human rights?

It is very important to see the problem of climate change as directly linked to the issue of human rights: the climate can seem like an abstract concept so to observe the consequences of climate change on each one of us – not only the most vulnerable populations – allows us to better understand the reality of this phenomenon. This is what will lead us to take action!

We see today an increase in natural disasters, droughts resulting in famines which we attribute to climate change. This phenomenon therefore has a direct impact on the right to life, a universal and inalienable right.

In addition to the right to health and the right to life, the right to self-determination is flouted today because of climate change and especially in the Pacific region where rising sea levels put island people in peril. Taking for example Kiribati where the authorities must prepare for the evacuation of their population and who for this reason have bought land on an archipelago island of Fiji. So how can the people of Kiribati have the right to self-determination as it is recognized by international law?

We are therefore challenged with this unavoidable problem linked to climate change and it is urgent that that the international community identifies the rights which are involved and bring solutions which fall into the framework of international law and respect the rights of resettled peoples.

What other consequences of climate change can one observe in New Zealand?

Generally, New Zealand has the reputation of being clean and green, it’s part of our national identity but it’s also the basis of our international reputation and with it we have made New Zealand’s mark!

New Zealanders worry that a review of our economic model, necessary for the reduction of greenhouse gases, will be catastrophic for our economy. But if we do nothing, what will be the cost of our inaction for future generations?
If we wish to continue to benefit from the image of our green and responsible country, we must take action!

So I think that New Zealand must make a promise to reduce our emissions and to incorporate this promise into law so that it may be a binding target.

But this is only a step. We have very positive statistics on which we can build: 60% of our energy consumption comes from renewable energy with the goal of reaching 90% between now and 2025. We are very good on this level, especially in the field of research. We have good technology which we must share with countries which are less well developed in this area, especially in the Pacific zone where an important potential for solar energy exists. Our contribution to the fight against climate change doesn’t necessarily have to be financial; we can also support the cause by sharing the results of our research.

In your opinion, what can younger generations bring to this debate on climate change and its impact on human rights?

PNGUnlike our parents, we have grown up with the notions of climate change and the protection of the environment as the backdrop of globalisation. We are all, first and foremost, global citizens who would like to live in a more certain world without constantly enduring the consequences of climate change.

With the preparations for COP21, the time to commit is now or never. It is true that international processes are not always easy to understand: they use a very technical terminology. That is why a group of Victoria University students, including myself, created the website Deconstructing Paris – analysing the COP 21 Draft Text. This project aims to make the COP21 language simpler and accessible to all.

Fittingly, LabCitoyen will allow you to have conversations with other young people from different backgrounds and very different perspectives. What do you hope to take from these discussions?

The most important thing for me is to create real connections with other participants. I want to understand the countries they come from, their cultures and the problems with which they are confronted.

A Facebook group was created so that we can have discussions already. One of the participants, who comes from Gaza, wrote there that she hopes to be able to come but that the difficulty for her will be being able to leave the country. It’s something which I would never have thought of. Of course I follow the news but in this particular case I am confronted with a reality that I don’t know. I also hope to be able to converse with other participants with whom I share similar values and interests.

As a New Zealander, what do you think you can bring to the debates being held during the programme?

During the previous editions, there hasn’t been a representative of the Pacific island states. I therefore hope to be able to speak in the name of the students of this region of the world. I consider that my country must assert its responsibility as a leader in the Pacific and as a representative of New Zealand I want to fully assume this role.

The physical environment constitutes an important part of our national identity and this must endure for the generations to come. I grew up beside the ocean so climate change is not only a political issue for me, it’s also an issue which affects me personally.

In a few months, in December, the 21st Climate Conference (COP21) will be held in Paris. How can New Zealand contribute to the success of this important event?

For me the first contribution is taking part in the COP21 itself and promising to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in a framework regulated by international law. All countries must act. In regards to New Zealand, it is imperative that we take on our responsibilities, if we hope to keep our reputation as a responsible global citizen.

I participated in the writing of a proposal by Victoria University’s environmental action group in the context of the national public consultation for New Zealand’s contribution to the COP21. We call on New Zealand authorities to accept the reality of climate change, to submit a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and to financially but also technologically support the adjustment of developing countries which must also benefit from the right to development, as it is written in international law.

But it’s not only a political issue, we must also think of our future! For me, it’s very simple: we no longer have a choice! There is only one thing to do, it’s to act. I am aware that it will not be east, but as Ban Ki Moon says: “There is no plan B because there is no planet B.”

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Dernière modification : 15/11/2015

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