UN Agencies Launch Policy Guidance on Children’s Right to Clean Environment

Children demonstrating in the streets of New Delhi so that the Indian government should protect them from dust pollution, noise pollution, and air pollution of extended FAR construction activity in occupied housing societies. Photo and Campaign by Rakesh Raman [ Click the photo to know the details. ]
Children demonstrating in the streets of New Delhi so that the Indian government should protect them from dust pollution, noise pollution, and air pollution of extended FAR construction activity in occupied housing societies. Photo and Campaign by Rakesh Raman [ Click the photo to know the details. ]

Almost every child on earth is exposed to at least one form of climate and environmental hazard, shock or stress, affecting their ability to realise the rights guaranteed to them. 

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UN Human Rights (OHCHR) are jointly launching today (November 23) the Principles and Policy Guidance on Children’s Rights to a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Region.

The Principles and Policy Guidance sets out fundamental principles for realizing children’s rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and for putting the best interests of children at the forefront. It provides essential policy guidance for governments, civil society, businesses, the media, and children to implement these principles.

“This groundbreaking initiative is the first of its kind, anywhere in the world, to provide guidance on advancing and protecting children’s rights to a healthy environment,” said Cynthia Veliko, the UN Human Rights South-East Asia Regional Representative in Bangkok. 

“Ensuring these fundamental rights is not just a commitment to a healthier future for the world’s children, but to a more sustainable future for our planet and future generations. We hope the Principles and Policy Guidance will be used as a basis for an expanded ASEAN commitment to children’s rights to a healthy environment in the region,” Veliko said.

The Principles and Policy Guidance is the result of an 18-month collaboration among the three UN agencies and child, youth, and adult experts from around the ASEAN region. A child-friendly version of the Principles and Policy Guidance for children aged 14-18 years has also been developed.

Dechen Tsering, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific, noted: “The Principles and Policy Guidance comes at a critical time as on the 8th of October this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) adopted a resolution that – for the first time in history – recognizes the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

The Principles and Policy Guidance will support the realization of children’s rights to a healthy environment across the region. This is vital as children, especially from vulnerable and marginalized backgrounds, are more exposed to and disproportionately impacted by environmental harm, despite being the least responsible for it.

Almost every child on earth is exposed to at least one form of climate and environmental hazard, shock or stress, affecting their ability to realise the rights guaranteed to them. The climate crisis, pollution and biodiversity loss are threats that will transform childhood and jeopardize a sustainable future for children and future generations globally.

According to UNEP, children and youth are key agents of change in tackling the triple planetary crisis, which risks undoing decades of progress fighting for children’s basic rights.

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