UN adopts resolution on realizing children’s rights through a healthy environment!

Today the UN Human Rights Council adopted a historic resolution underlining the need for States to take measures to protect the rights of children and future generations in the face of environmental harm, including by recognizing a right to a healthy environment in national legislation, and ‘ensuring that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in environmental decision-making’.

Other key highlights in the resolution include:

  • Deep concern that each year more than 1.7 million children under the age of five lose their lives as a result of avoidable exposure to the effects of environmental harm, while twelve million children in developing countries experience permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning, and approximately 85 million children worldwide work in hazardous conditions, with regular exposure to toxic substances that cause brain damage and disease, amongst other forms of irreversible and lifelong harm.

  • Acknowledging that preventing environmental harm is the most effective way to fully protect children from its effects and committing to take precautionary action whenever there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to children from the effects of environmental harm, noting that a lack of full scientific certainty ‘shall not be used’ as a reason for postponing measures to prevent such threats.

  • Underscoring the importance of protecting children from environmental harm through decisive climate action, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, pollution mitigation, and the sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes, as well as disclosure of information and improved and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene.

  • Calling on States to consider their obligations regarding the rights of the child and intergenerational equity in their climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental strategies.

  • Recognition of the ‘positive, important and legitimate’ role played by children and child/youth-led movements to defend human rights relating to the environment, as well as the need to protect them.

  • Urging States to address the critical role of business in causing and contributing to children’s rights abuses through environmental harm, including by monitoring their environmental impacts, ensuring compliance with relevant standards, strengthening regulation, requiring child rights due diligence, and to provide for access to effective remedy.

  • Urging States to ensure that considerations of children’s rights are integrated in a cross-cutting manner to enhance policy coherence across environmental, climate, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian and development activities, monitoring and reporting.

The resolution, which has been the focus of intense negotiations in the Council over the past fortnight, represents the outcome of a longer term process, including the Council’s Annual Day on the Rights of the Child which took place in July, focusing on this topic.

CERI partners have been busy engaging with States and other partners throughout, in line with the calls set out in our Joint Call to Action, endorsed by 40 signatories. Our efforts focused in particular on pushing back against efforts led by a few States to considerably weaken the resolution in a number of areas, including proposals to delete any reference to the right to a healthy environment, and water down language concerning children’s civil and political rights, gender, and sexual and reproductive health. We are delighted that the European Union and Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), as key sponsors of the resolution, demonstrated leadership in resisting this pressure, delivering a breakthrough resolution. Despite this success, we would have liked to see more concrete commitments with respect to actions by States to follow-up on the resolution. We will continue to work towards recognition and implementation of States’ obligations to uphold every child’s right to a healthy environment, recognising that every single day matters.


“We will continue to work towards recognition and implementation of States’ obligations to uphold every child’s right to a healthy environment, recognising that every single day matters.”


Joni Pegram is the Founder and Director of Project Dryad, a Secretariat member of the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI).

Previous Post
Statement from 5 States: A possible path towards the right to a healthy environment
Next Post
Bridging our rights to a restored planet
Other posts