The main UN human rights body, the Human Rights Council, recognized for the first time that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is indeed a human right!
Through resolution 48/13, overwhelmingly voted in favor on 8 October, the Council emphasized the importance that the recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment has for all children and their rights. Through this resolution, the Council calls on States around the world to work together, and with other partners, to implement this newly recognized right. The resolution recalls resolution 45/30 on realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment which urged States to take the necessary measures to protect children’s rights from environmental harm as well as ensure that children are at the core of environmental decision-making.
“The right to a healthy environment matters for children perhaps more than for any other group given how much they suffer as a result of avoidable environment harm and how much they stand to lose if global warming continues. The right could prove a powerful tool – in their hands – to advocate for transformational change.”, said Jonas Schubert, convener of the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children’s Rights and Environment and representative of Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI).
The recognition of this right by the Human Rights Council is the result of unprecedented coordination efforts among many stakeholders, especially civil society, children, and youth, who joined efforts in a call for global recognition signed by more than 1.350 organizations.
The Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children’s Rights and Environment, in collaboration with the CERI, joined these efforts to ensure that child rights were at the core of the recognition and succeeded to ensure that a link was made between the recognition and child rights. The work of the Working Group in support of the recognition was acknowledged as crucial by the States leading in the adoption of the resolution, namely Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland, through a thank you letter.
Another major achievement, through a second resolution (48/14), is the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change. This will allow the Council to give focused and systematic attention to the impact of the climate change crisis on human rights and better respond to it.
Following joint advocacy from the Child Rights Connect Working Group and CERI, the new Special Rapporteur has been mandated to consult with children and youth when conducting activities! The expert also has to integrate a gender-responsive, age-sensitive, disability-inclusive, and social inclusion perspective throughout the work of the mandate.
Both resolutions are a major milestone in the fight against environmental harm and climate change and their impact on child rights. Their implementation will be crucial to respond to the call for environmental action from children worldwide. The Child Rights Connect Working Group will stay engaged in the process as it is the turn for the General Assembly to recognize the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in the coming year.