Children file complaint of rights violation over climate crisis

children file complaint to UN
© UNICEF / Radhika Chalasani

Delivered to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the group alleges that climate crisis inaction constitutes a violation of child rights.

In November of 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the United Nations. As an international human rights treaty, the convention outlines the civil, economic, social, political and cultural rights of children. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history – which makes sense; protecting children should come as a natural desire.

Alas, we haven't been so great about ensuring the future of a safe planet for our children, and now a group of 16 young people have filed a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest lack of government action on the climate crisis.

The petitioners range in age from 8 to 16 and hail from 12 countries; they include 16-year-old Greta Thunberg and New York City's 14-year -old Alexandria Villasenor (speaking in the top photo). They say that Member States have failed to tackle the climate crisis, creating a violation of child rights. They urge the independent body to order Member States to take action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change, notes UNICEF. The complaint was announced at a press conference hosted at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.

“Change needs to happen now if we are to avoid the worst consequences. The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water, places that are unliveable and refugees because of it. It is scary,” said Thunberg.

“We’re here as citizens of the planet," said Villaseñor, who has been protesting every Friday in front of the UN. "As victims of the pollution that’s been carelessly dumped into our land, air and sea for generations, and as children whose rights are being violated . . . Today we are fighting back . . . 30 years ago the world made a promise to us. Virtually every country in the world agreed that children have rights that must be protected."

"Today I want to tell the world," she added, "You are defaulting on that contract. And we’re here to collect."

The complaint was filed through the CRC's Third Optional Protocol, in which children (or their representatives) can appeal directly to the UN for assistance if a country that has ratified the Protocol fails to offer a fix for a rights violation.

The Committee that adjudicates complaints is comprised of a group of independent experts who are able to launch investigations into "grave or systematic violations."

children file complaint to UN© UNICEF / Radhika Chalasani
Above: 12 year-old Morayo Adegbile from Lagos, says, “I’m here to make an impact and represent my country."

“Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Today, the world’s children are holding the world accountable to that commitment,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. “We fully support children exercising their rights and taking a stand. Climate change will impact every single one of them. It’s no wonder they are uniting to fight back.”

Along with Thunberg and Villaseñor, the others come from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Palau, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia, and the United States. They are represented by global law firm Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice.

It really shouldn't be so hard to protect the kids ... may their voices be heard, and may the grown-ups start taking some responsibility.

You can read the stories of the petitioners here: ChildrenVsClimateCrisis

Children file complaint of rights violation over climate crisis
Delivered to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the group of 16 alleges that climate crisis inaction constitutes a violation of child rights.

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