UN human rights experts applaud children fighting climate change

GENEVA March 22, 2019 – UN experts on children’s rights, human rights defenders and human rights and the environment today lauded the Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution calling upon States “to provide a safe and empowering context for initiatives organized by young people and children to defend human rights relating to the environment.”

The Child Rights Committee together with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the environment highlighted the importance of the resolution for children who are currently standing up for their right to a healthy and sustainable environment.

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“Children are leading the way with their Fridays For Future protests,” said Renate Winter, Chair of the Child Rights Committee. “We salute their courage and are deeply grateful for their actions, which are desperately needed in today’s political climate of lassitude and decision paralysis,” David Boyd and Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteurs, added.

The new resolution calls on States around the world to protect and empower human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders. It also calls on States to facilitate the participation of children and youth in decision-making and implementation of environmental policies and programmes.

The human rights experts underscored the important role of human rights defenders, including child human rights defenders, in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2016 and 2018, the Child Rights Committee hosted discussion events with children, which among others produced the recommendation that child human rights defenders should be empowered and supported to express their views willingly, fully and without any fear, about environmental issues. Countries should also provide a safe and enabling environment for child human rights defenders to speak out and make recommendations about environmental issues.

The experts consider this new resolution can effectively contribute to the implementation of these recommendations and protect those working for a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. “Children often bring a moral authority that can be forgotten in discussions about the specifics – we see the world much more clearly,” said a group of child human rights defenders and environmental activists from Australia who met with the Committee on 6 February 2019. “We might not have votes, but we certainly have a voice.”

Later this year, the Special Rapporteur on environment will launch the first regional workshop on children’s rights and the environment in the Latin America and the Caribbean region as part of his global project promoting children’s right to a healthy environment.