Helvetas’ Position on Climate Justice

BY: Jesper Lauridsen, Maya Wolfensberger, Ashish Barua - 02. November 2021

Climate change and building resilience is one working field Helvetas has been engaged in over the last two decades, supporting the most disadvantaged women and men to adapt to climate change, plan for the long-term and make risk-informed decisions, as well as in accessing climate finance. As an implementing organization putting people at the center of our work, climate justice is part of a unifying rights-based frame within which Helvetas acts, empowers its partners and advocates for a fairer world.

At the same time, we support communities who are already affected and suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change (e.g., losing their land, livelihoods or houses, and are forced to migrate). The climate change crisis starkly exposes and exacerbates already existing social, financial and political injustices. Advocating and addressing climate justice in our projects is therefore a direct response to peoples’ needs on the ground.

Three Dimensions of Climate Justice

In pursuit of climate justice, Helvetas proposes an analytical framework along three dimensions of climate justice: financial, political and social. Such a framework prompts us to design, implement, monitor, evaluate and learn from interconnected interventions at local, national and international levels, and move towards more holistic programming on climate justice.

The Financial Dimension: From a financial point of view, climate justice requires that the costs associated with climate change are internalized. This raises two fundamental questions: 1) Who needs to pay and act? and 2) who should receive those payments? These questions put the notion of climate finance in the center of the discussion. Helvetas’ position advocates for the “polluter pays” principle, whereby the industrialized countries and large corporations that profited for centuries to decades from burning fossil fuels are responsible for their historic and current contribution to climate change.

The Political Dimension: The Human Rights-Based Approach is at the core of the political dimension that links climate injustices to violations and/or nonfulfillment of specific rights. In practice, this approach guides Helvetas to support vulnerable communities and civil society to be empowered to represent their interests, to have a voice, and through individual and collective action to protect, promote and demand climate justice by engaging in multi-stakeholder decision- and policy-making processes at the local, national and international levels.

The Social Dimension: Climate change disproportionally impacts those with less power. Through Helvetas’ climate change activities, we aim to strengthen the resilience and adaptation capacity of the most vulnerable groups using a gender-responsive and inclusive approach. In patriarchal societies, women’s livelihoods are particularly dependent on natural resources that are threatened by climate change. The fact that women often have less access to land and resources underscores women’s vulnerability even further. Women who are empowered, self-confident and have a voice to meaningfully engage in and take up leadership in community development and local government institutions are therefore pivotal for the advancement of social service provision.


Download our new position paper to learn more about Helvetas’ approach to climate justice.