(Geneva) – Governments around the world should place children’s rights at the heart of environmental policies and action, 24 organizations and experts said today. They are publishing a Call to Action as governments gather for the United Nations Human Rights Council’s annual meeting on the rights of the child.
“The time is ripe for governments to act on the environmental emergency that threatens children’s rights and future generations,” said Juliane Kippenberg, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Government should not only listen to children, but also place their rights at the core of the environment agenda.”
The groups noted that each year more than 1.7 million children under age 5 lose their lives as a result of avoidable environmental degradation, while millions more suffer disease, disability, and other harm. Children’s rights are under threat due to insufficient government measures to address the climate crisis, unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss, exploitation of natural resources, exposure to toxic substances and waste, and widespread pollution of the air, water, and soil, the experts and organizations said.
The United Nations should formally recognize the human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, the groups and experts said. Governments should end childhood exposure to pollution and toxic substances and focus on the impact on children’s rights, particularly those who are most vulnerable, in carrying out the Paris agreement on climate change. Governments should also protect child human rights defenders and ensure a child-focused green and rights-respecting recovery from Covid-19.