GENEVA (22 March 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.
“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.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on a communications procedure. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the Treaty.
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Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Mr. David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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