A Statement to UN Human Rights Council: Place children’s rights at the heart of environmental action

On 21 September 2020, as the Human Rights Council negotiates a resolution on children’s rights and the environment during its 45th Regular Session, the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI) together with the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Environment delivered a statement to the Council during an interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances. It demands a strong resolution that commits States to place children’s rights at the heart of environmental policies and action, and to formally recognizes children’s right to a healthy environment.

The following statement reiterates the Joint Call to Action to the Human Rights Council on 1 July 2020 endorsed by 40 organizations worldwide, calling on governments to strengthen their commitments to adopt a child rights-based approach to environmental and climate-related initiatives, and identifies 7 concrete measures for action.


Realising children’s right to a healthy environment:

A joint Call to Action for Human Rights Council 45 – Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances

This statement is made on behalf of the Child Rights Connect Working Group on child rights and environment and the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative.

We would like to congratulate Dr. Orellana for his appointment as Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances. We hope that during your mandate you will build on and further develop the work of your predecessor in relation to children’s rights.

Children’s rights are under threat due to insufficient government responses to exposure to toxic substances and waste, the climate crisis, unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss, exploitation of natural resources, and widespread pollution of the air, water and soil.

At a time when the world is in a deep health crisis, and as children’s rights globally suffer severe setbacks due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention must not be diverted from the environmental emergency that is undermining children’s rights and future prospects around the world.

Joining the millions of children and youth across the world calling for more urgent and ambitious action to tackle the root causes and impacts of the global environmental crisis, 40 civil society organisations and experts, launched a Joint Call to Action in July on the occasion of the Annual day on the Rights of the Child. We want to reiterate this call today, calling on Member States to ensure that children’s voices are not only heard, but acted upon.

As stated by the previous mandate holder in his last report to the General Assembly, “the toxification of our planet and bodies constitutes what is arguably one of the most underappreciated threats to the ability of present and future generations to enjoy their human rights to life, health and a life with dignity”. We call on States to:

  1. Place children’s rights at the heart of environmental policies and action including by regulating businesses to ensure that they comply with all applicable environmental laws and the General Comment No. 16 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, including mandatory child rights due diligence and environmental impact assessments.

  2. Uphold their duty to prevent childhood exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals as part of States’ obligation to protect children, and ensure that this is reflected in laws and policies based on the child’s best interests, as well as through business activities.

  3. Ensure that children have access to justice, including effective remedies for and reparation of human rights violations due to environmental harm, including exposure to toxic substances and pollution, as highlighted by the last report of the Special Rapporteur to the Council on ‘The human right to an effective remedy: the case of lead-contaminated housing in Kosovo’.

  4. Protect and support child environmental human rights defenders and take concrete action to protect all children’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

  5. Support the formal recognition of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment by the UN, as a step of particular relevance to children, as well as for future generations, who shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of environmental harm. Following its launch just a few weeks ago, more than 900 organizations globally have endorsed the civil society call to the Human Rights Council to recognise this right, including many child and youth led organizations and social movements.

As negotiations of a Council resolution on child rights and the environment are underway, we call for broad support from all States to ensure a strong resolution that upholds the highest standards for the realisation of child rights through a healthy environment.

Thank you.

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