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Updated: 13-March-2012

Children & Environment 1 Children & Environment 2 Children and environment
    Pictures: By George Mwika Kayange

"Children & youth are a force that must make itself counted in the fight against the loss of biodiversity."
Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention On Biological Diversity.
courtesy of the CBD Secretariat
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention), promulgated in November 1989 and ratified by 193 States (the international binding instrument with the most universal scope) establishes a new statute of child, considered a subject of rights. The global approach of the Convention encompasses every aspect of human rights, including environmental issues.

We live in a world where the financial, economic, climatic and energetic crisis affects us globally. And yet the effects of this crisis are felt more acutely in developing countries, thus directly affecting children: it is indeed a threat for their life and survival, but also for the realization of their rights.

Obvious examples are the food crisis, on the one hand, hitting hard a whole part of Africa, South-Asia and Latin America; and hampered access to energy, on the other hand, for part of the world population. The underlying financial crisis declared in 2008, probably the most ravaging of its kind, bears indeed consequences we have not yet entirely grasped. A vast number of countries accordingly experience a very upsetting situation, with money devaluation, plummeting tax income, applications for IFM aid schemes, with countries literally queuing up... In parallel, the prices of exported raw material are decreasing and the prices of imported raw material are soaring. First necessity items thus become unaffordable.

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This situation directly impacts on children, on their life standards and on the enjoyment of their most basic rights such as food, housing, water access and hygiene conditions, access to healthcare. It also indirectly influences the conditions of child care, and faulty parenting: parents being forced to work harder, longer, and to venture on emigration as often as not. It also takes its toll on institutional structures, since States are short of the resources necessary to maintain protection services and promote education and training activities. In such contexts, there is no such thing as enjoyment of their rights for children. Words are wasted on a starving man... Situations of violence multiply, children are set to work from a very tender age, physical and mental health is deteriorating.

Children in the poorest developing countries such as Malawi moreover have very difficult, or almost non-existent, access to energy: their right to development, granted by art.6 of the Convention is therefore under threat. They are in no position to exert their basic rights, having no light, no heating, no transportation means. With regard to education, they have no access to new technologies, which cannot be driven without a minimum of energy. These new modes of learning (distance-learning), which could be so precious for them, remain therefore unavailable.

In 2005, the United Nations decided that the period 2005-2014 would be the Decade on Education for Sustainable Development. This is a unique opportunity for you to link education to environmental protection. Education represents a unique chance to channel your concerns in the form of learning opportunities that lead to action in your own classrooms, your communities, and at the national and international levels.

Because the Convention on Biological Diversity is your Convention and your passport to tomorrow’s healthy environment, I call on you to be fully engaged in its implementation at a time when the Parties, countries of which you are citizens, have actively embarked on a new and exciting phase of its existence; a phase aimed at translating its objectives into practical achievements to tackle the day-to-day challenges of our global village.

Calling Children & Youth to Action

In his message to children and youth of the world on 18 February 2006 in preparation for the Day for Biodiversity (which falls on 22 May), Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention On Biological Diversity, acknowledged that health and well-being of children and youth are directly and seriously affected by environmental problems and biodiversity loss, yet they make up almost one half of the world population of over seven billion people.

"This is unacceptable. You are a force that must make itself counted in the fight against the loss of biodiversity," he said, while also emphsizing the fact that by protecting the planet’s biodiversity the children and youth will protect their own future and preserve life on Earth.

He also said that the children and youth are major stakeholders in ensuring the successful implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and that and that they cannot afford to adopt a neutral status on such a vital issue.

Environmental protection has become a key component in the agendas of youth organizations all over the world. While every part of society has a responsibility for maintaining the environmental integrity of the community, young people have a particular interest in preserving a healthy environment, since they are the ones that will inherit it.

Eighty-five per cent of young people live in developing countries, where threats to the environment are inextricably linked to their health and safety. Environmental quality is one the key factors in determining whether a child survives the first years of their life. healthy school environments can significantly raise a child’s learning potential. In these countries, lack of available water often forces people—more often than not, children and women—to spend a lot of time fetching and carrying that precious commodity, often at great distances from their homes.

The unique contribution that the younger generation can and should make to the protection of the environment was recognized by the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1992. In adopting chapter 25 of Agenda 21, the 101 Heads of State or Government attending this meeting reaffirmed the need for “advancing the role of youth and actively involving them in the protection of the environment and the promotion of economic and social development”.

Our Call & Vision

The vision of the Child Rights Information and Documentation Centre (CRIDOC) is to join with the Malawi Government and other key players to reflect on the effects of these new phenomena (access to water, food, energy, and climate change) in order to outline solutions and practices promoting harmonious development for the child, respect for her/his rights, in the universally acknowledged context of sustainable development.

Our call to pursue this vision is in the spirit of the 2002 Youth Declaration, adopted at the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in The Hague, in which children and youth expressed their desire to make their voices and grave concerns heard in the international biodiversity agenda.

Their dynamism is our hope!

Key References

1. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity - Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf's Speech, 2006

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