Natalia Pacheco is an independent consultant and researcher with ten years of experience in multilateralism, climate change and human rights. She holds a PhD Degree in Social Sciences with a mention in Geography from the University of Geneva. In her PhD thesis, Natalia proposed a framework to assess equity and social safeguards in the provisions on payment for environmental services in the Paris Agreement. She also holds a Master Degree in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and a Master Degree on International Relations, International Law and Diplomacy from the Catholic University in La Paz – Bolivia.

Natalia worked for seven years as a Counsellor of the Bolivian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, where she was responsible for the Environment, Human Rights and Development portfolio. At the Human Rights Council, she was actively involved in the negotiations of the resolutions on human rights and climate change, environment, food and toxic wastes. She was also a lead negotiator of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, adopted in 2018. She participated in many environmental negotiations, including those of the Paris Agreement  on climate change where she advocated for the inclusion of references to human rights, the rights of Mother Earth, the rights of Indigenous peoples and the right to development. She coordinated the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries in environmental organizations in Geneva and was a focal point of the Group of 77 and China at UNCTAD XXIV. She was elected as Vice-President of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2019.

1. What led you to work in human rights and the environment?

I developed a profound interest in human rights and the environment after seeing the growing impacts of climate change in developing countries like mine. I was concerned about rising inequalities due to constant droughts and floods as well as water shortages caused by the receding glaciers. I was also worried about the mounting environmental deterioration of our rivers and lakes and its impacts on health.

2. What have you been working on recently and/or what is your next big project? 

I recently co-authored a research paper of the South Centre about the negotiations and contributions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). I am currently working on an article to assess equity in the rules proposed to implement international carbon markets under the Paris Agreement. In the future, I plan to write more about a special procedure on human rights and climate change. I would also like to write more about the participation of stakeholders in multilateral meetings; and about climate change, agroecology and health rights.

3. Which scholars, writers or activists do you think are not getting the attention they should be getting? 

Peasant and farmers movements around the world need more recognition and attention. Family agriculture and agroecology are vital to providing healthy and diverse food, particularly in the context of growing environmental and health crisis. At the same time, peasants around the world face several threats to the protection of their human rights, including the impacts of climate change, the concentration of food systems, land grabbing, among others.  

4. What are the most compelling challenges in human rights and the environment right now? Can you briefly describe any proposed solutions? 

One of the most compelling challenges that I observed in the multilateral sphere is the problematic interaction and dialogue between the human rights & environment regimes. There is reluctancy on both sides to broaden discussions into areas that have been traditionally addressed separately. Actors fear that their rights or obligations may be infringed due to the different principles and approaches that both regimes follow. Therefore, it is essential to find an adequate balance that captures the essence of both human rights & the environment and contributes to achieving social and environmental goals. Such dialogue requires interdisciplinarity and a broader understanding and coordination between different multilateral agencies and actors.

Feature photo by Peter Oslanec on Unsplash