Including the ocean in international guidance on children’s right to a healthy environment

The One Ocean Hub contributed to the first global consultation on the future content of General Comment No. 26 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – which will provide international guidance on how children’s rights are impacted by the environmental crisis and what governments must do to uphold these rights.
Hub researcher Mia Strand (Nelson Mandela University, South Africa) and Hub Director Elisa Morgera provided responses to an online questionnaire on:

  • the impacts of ocean pollution and marine biodiversity loss for children’s lives, according to the Hub’s policy brief on children’s rights to a healthy ocean;
  • The need to take into account the dependence of children’s rights upon a healthy ocean (including healthy deep-sea ecosystems) and the impacts of climate change, as discussed at our COP26 event;
  • The need to prioritise ocean research that systematically prioritises the needs of children, given our limited knowledge of the ocean ecosystems and their services;
  • Ensuring a holistic approach to the environment (i.e. climate change, biodiversity, ocean) and the indivisibility of children’s rights are cornerstones of efforts to implement the right to education;
  • Child-friendly information on, and procedures for participation in relevant international meetings, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement, and the International Seabed Authority;

The submissions also argued that:

  • integrating consideration of children’s rights in ocean-related decision-making can help take a longer-term perspective on environmental threats and their impacts on human well-being, privileging long-term solutions and benefits instead of short-term gains;
  • the key principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (non-discrimination; best interests; the right to life, survival and development, and the views of the child) should be used to assess the legitimacy and effectiveness of environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments that disregard potential negative impacts on children’s rights and/or have not appropriately supported children’s participation; and
  • Guidelines adopted under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity can be relied upon to clarify standards for the protection of indigenous children’s rights and children’s rights at the interface of biodiversity and climate change.

Hub researches are working on in-depth papers to explore these issues as part of the ongoing partnership with the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative in preparing inputs into the development of the UN General Comment on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change.

Photo: Isabelle Van der Linden