Six ways children's rights can help the planet

Children's rights can help create a cleaner, healthier planet.

Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification pose clear threats to children's health and even their right to life. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization recently warned of persistent and alarming trends in these four key indicators of climate change that will have a severe impact on children in the coming decades.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, made up of 18 experts, monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in each of the 196 signatory countries. To do this, it collects reports from UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), governments and non-profit organizations and then uses them to make recommendations for improvement.

It also prepares general comments on issues related to the rights of children and adolescents. In these statements she emphasized taking children's perspectives into account. UNICEF has warned that climate change is a form of systemic violence against all children because it can cause social divisions between communities and families.

They are concerned about the effects of natural disasters, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, which in turn have tragic consequences for agriculture, access to clean water and nutrition. Ultimately, these consequences constitute a violation of the right to health.

Alarming figures that violate children's rights

In fact, its damning August 2021 report concluded that staggering numbers were reached: 815 million children exposed to lead pollution, 820 million children exposed to heat pollution, 920 million children exposed to lack of water and XNUMX billion children exposed to high levels of air pollution.

For its part, the World Health Organization warned in 2017 that 1,7 million children die each year from avoidable environmental exposures. This makes it the leading cause of death in young children, accounting for more than a quarter of deaths in children under 5 years of age.

Responses from more than 16.000 children

In light of these reports, the Committee on the Rights of the Child decided to draft a General Comment on the rights of the child and the environment, with special attention to climate change, entitled The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is committed to developing a new General Comment on the rights of the child and the environment, with special attention to climate change.

During two consultation periods (March 31 to June 30, 2022 and November 15, 2022 to February 15, 2023), they received 16.331 direct responses from children and young people in 121 countries. These demands were then consolidated into six general lines:

  • Ensure that all children have access to a clean and healthy environment.
  • Listen to your children and take their opinions seriously. Respect their role as key actors in efforts to protect the environment.
  • Make government and corporate actions clear and transparent.
  • Promote international cooperation.
  • Expand and improve ecological awareness and ecological education.
  • Create spaces to participate, exchange ideas and find solutions.

This document emphasizes shared responsibility. It places special emphasis on the need to create universal standards that allow governments to protect children's rights, which are being undermined by the climate crisis, the destruction of biodiversity and the pollution of water, air and land.

After all, children have the same rights as anyone else. They are the driving force of social commitment and play a very proactive role in the transformation of the environment.

It is important that countries enact laws and guidelines with sufficient funding and transparency to restore and protect these rights from abuse by external forces, including private companies. They must also guarantee the restoration and protection of biodiversity.

The children have right to a clean environment and countries have the obligation to guarantee this right. Not only for those who are already in the world but also for the future inhabitants of the planet, who deserve a world where their rights are truly respected.

This article was written by Carlos Villagrasa Alcaide, Professor of Civil Law, University of Barcelona. It is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. read the Original article

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