HAMBURG, November 19, 2020 – On the occasion of the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 2020, the World Future Council warns that the rights of children embedded in the Convention are still not realized everywhere and that the health of girls and boys in particular is endangered by environmental pollution, climate change and hazardous chemicals.

31 years ago, on 20 November 1989, children’s rights were first specifically protected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly. This means that the community of states is obliged to guarantee all children worldwide the rights of children under international law and to invest in the health, education, protection and participation of children. Art. 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

There are around 40,000-60,000 chemicals worldwide and we come into contact with chemicals every day. Many of them are a danger to humans and the environment, and children and women are exceptionally affected. Particularly problematic are chemicals that end up in the food chain and our drinking water during production, use or disposal, and thus accumulate in our bodies. Protection against hazardous chemicals is therefore the topic of the Future Policy Award 2021!

“Therefore, the World Future Council dedicates its renowned Future Policy Award 2021 to the issue of protection against hazardous chemicals,” says Alexandra Wandel Executive Director of the World Future Council. “The award honors laws that promote better living conditions for present and future generations. We are looking for exemplary policies that protect girls and boys from the dangers of lead in paint, pesticides and exploitative work in gold mines where mercury is improperly used”.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries imposed partial or total lockdowns and closed kindergartens and schools. This means that large numbers of children are now spending more time at home. Here they might be exposed to harmful materials contained in toys and other items they play with. In some countries, they might also be at risk of exposure to peeling or flaking wall paint which can contain lead, causing irreversible harm to children’s health and early development if ingested. Other toxins, such as those in aggressive cleaning products, can also be ingested accidentally,” states María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Councillor of the World Future Council and President of the 73rd General Assembly.

“Children are not little adults. Their bodies react more sensitively to pollutants and absorb them more than adults. Exposure to hazardous chemicals begins in the womb. Children have weaker defense mechanisms because their bodies are in the process of building up. Allergies, growth disorders, brain and nerve damage, learning difficulties, low IQ development or aggressive behavior can be the consequences,” says Prof. Dr. Michael Otto, co-founder and Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Otto GmbH & Co KG. “A good chemicals policy is needed here, and I am pleased that the Future Policy Award 2021 is addressing this issue and drawing attention to children’s health”.

The Foundation will present the Future Policy Award for the most effective laws to protect against harmful chemicals at the 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management from July 5-9, 2021.

The Future Policy Award is presented in partnership with the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and with the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the German Environment Agency (UBA), the Michael Otto Foundation and the Jua Foundation.