16 children file a historical complaint with the United Nations

© UNICEF/UNI207443/Chalasani

Yesterday, Monday, September 23, 16 children aged 8 to 17 from 12 countries filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child protesting against governments’ inaction on the climate crisis and failure to meet their commitments to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

By ratifying this convention 30 years ago, the 197 signatory countries committed themselves to protecting the rights of all children. As stated in article 6, States parties must ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child, a role that the countries aimed in the complaint (France, Germany, Argentina, Turkey and Brazil) have failed to fulfil in the eyes of young activists.

To demonstrate their point, they mention the effects of climate change on their own lives: repeated fires, epidemics, respiratory problems related to air quality, poisoned marine life, anxiety or even depression about the present and future of their world… All these phenomena constitute violations of children’s rights as mentioned in the Convention.

It is the responsibility of States to ensure the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for his or her development (article 27 of the Convention), and in the context where the environment compromises life, development, culture and schooling, and compels children to travel, food insecurity, deteriorating health and political, social or economic insecurity, then States may be held accountable for their actions or inaction.

The complaint was announced at a press conference at UNICEF headquarters in New York, and aims to push governments to take concrete action to fight global warming.

“Climate change is not a problem which any country can solve on its own. All the countries must join their hands together to solve this crisis as it is a global issue”

Ridhima Pandey, jeune Indien de 11 ans

The International Bureau for Children’s Rights welcomes the initiative of these young activists and recalls the importance of considering children and their voices in public debate. It is essential that children whose rights are violated be able to make their voices heard at the national level, as well as on the international scene, thanks in particular to official mechanisms such as this one*. Through Greta Thunberg and other child activists, a whole generation is mobilizing, and their words must be respected.

*The complaint is part of an optional protocol to the CRC, which allows children to seek direct assistance from the United Nations if they believe that their rights have been violated by a State.


To learn more about the complaint:

© UNICEF/UNI207468/Chalasani

Pictures’ credit: © UNICEF/Chalasani