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“Protecting our environment, respecting our rights” Committee on the Rights of the Child to discuss children’s rights and the environment

Children and the environment

22 September 2016

23 September, 10:00 – 18:00 Room XIX and Room XII,
Palais des Nations, Geneva

The impact of environmental damage on children’s rights is not new. Yet, despite the near universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; despite data explicitly linking environmental harm to child rights violations; and given the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the understanding of the relationship between children’s rights and the environment is still in its infancy.

To address this gap, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is dedicating its Day of General Discussion (23 September 2016) to children’s rights and the environment. The Committee will be joined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Implications for Human Rights of the Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Substances and Wastes.

The threat of environmental damage to children’s enjoyment of their rights not only affects children today, but generations to come. The scientific data is unequivocal, whether it is environmental toxicants, climate change or the depletion of natural resources, children are already being affected. In terms of health alone, a quarter of the global burden of disease is estimated to be attributed to modifiable environmental factors, according to the World Health Organization. The deaths of more than 1.7 million children under five are associated with environmental-related causes and conditions. In 2012 alone, the deaths of 600,000 children under five were attributed to air pollution, with impacts from exposures ranging from motor vehicles to household pollutants.

The effect of environmental damage goes far beyond the direct impact on health, food, water or standard of living. For instance, climate change aggravates the underlying causes of serious violations, through conflict to reduced resources, worsening inequalities, forced migration and even early marriage.

“The day of general discussion is a milestone in bringing all our knowledge on the environment and children’s rights together across our different areas of expertise,” said CRC Chair Benyam Dawit Mezmur. “The link between environmental harm and children’s rights is one of the biggest challenges facing us in this century. Climate change alone threatens the realization of the Convention as a whole."
The DGD is timely, given the recent Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. As the SDGs enter the implementation phase, the explicit link to children’s rights must be made.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child is often overlooked in setting and implementing environmental policies and standards even though it specifically identifies ‘the dangers and risks of environmental pollution’ as a threat to the right to health,” said John Knox, the Special Rapporteur on the Environment. “Those concerned with children’s rights and those concerned with environmental protection often focus on one to the exclusion of the other,” Mr. Knox highlighted.

The Day of General Discussion also coincides with the report by Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on the Implications for Human Rights of the Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Substances and Wastes, to the Human Rights Council on the impact of toxics and pollution on children’s rights:

“There is a silent pandemic of disease and disability associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals during childhood, many of which do not manifest themselves for years or decades,” Mr. Tuncak noted. States have a human rights obligation to prevent childhood exposure, and businesses a corresponding responsibility, the Special Rapporteur stressed. 

For more information on the event, go to:
Twitter: #DGD16

For more information, contact Nina Sluga - +41 22 917 9362 / [email protected]