Landmark guidelines aim to protect children uprooted by climate change |
The Guiding Principles for Children on the Move in the Context of Climate Change contain a set of nine principles that address the unique and multidimensional vulnerabilities of boys and girls who have been uprooted, whether within the country or across borders, due to the adverse effects of climate change.
Climate change is here and is having a disproportionate impact on children’s present and future.
The new UNICEF report recommends nine principles to protect the rights and well-being of children on the move in the face of climate change. https://t.co/zP1yKb2BaT
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) July 25, 2022
They were launched by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and the United Nations University (UNU), located in Tokyo, Japan.
Save future generations
Partners explained that currently most child-related migration policies fail to consider climatic and environmental factors, while most climate change policies neglect the unique needs of children.
“The climate emergency has and will continue to have profound implications for human mobility. Its impacts will be most severe with particular segments of our communities such as children; we cannot endanger future generations,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.
He added that although migrant children are particularly vulnerable when moving in the context of climate change, their needs and aspirations are still ignored in policy debates.
“With these guiding principles we aim to ensure the visibility of their needs and rights, both in political debates and in programming. Managing migration and addressing the displacement of children in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters is a huge challenge that we face now.
Young lives at risk
Climate change intersects with existing environmental, social, political, economic and demographic conditions that contribute to people’s decisions to move.
Nearly 10 million children were displaced by weather-related shocks in 2020 alone. In addition, nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children, or approximately one billion boys and girls, live in 33 countries at high risk of the impacts of climate change.
The partners warn that millions more children could be forced to move in the coming years.
“Every day sea level rise, hurricanes, wildfires and crop failures are pushing more and more children and families from their homessaid Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF.
“Displaced children are more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. They are more likely to lose access to education and health care. And they are often forced into early marriage and child labor.
© UNICEF/KC Nwakalor
Collaboration with young activists
The Guiding Principles provide national and local governments, international organizations and civil society groups with a basis for developing policies that protect children’s rights.
They have been developed in collaboration with young climate and migration activists, academics, experts, policymakers, practitioners and UN agencies. The principles are based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and build on existing guidelines and operational frameworks.
UNU’s David Passarelli recalled that the international community has been sounding the alarm for years about climate change and environmental degradation, as well as the likelihood of mass displacement.
These predictions have come true as climate-related migration has been observed in all regions of the world, with children increasingly affected.
“Although these children benefit from a range of international and national protections, the subject is very technical and difficult to access, creating a protection deficit for migrant children,” said Mr. Passarelli, executive director of the Research Center on university policies.
He added that partners have highlighted the need for concise guidelines that communicate risks, protections and rights, in clear and accessible language.
Protection for today and tomorrow
The Guiding Principles “have been developed with this specific objective in mind. This tool helps navigate the complex nexus between migrant rights, children’s rights and climate change in order to respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of children on the move in the context of climate change.
Governments, local and regional actors, international organizations and civil society groups are invited to adopt these principles.
Although the new framework does not include new legal obligations, it distills and builds on key principles that have already been affirmed in international law and adopted by governments around the world, said Elizabeth Ferris, director of the Institute for Georgetown University’s study of international migration.
“We urge all governments to review their policies in light of the Guiding Principles and take action now that will ensure children on the move in the face of climate change are protected now and in the future.