On July 27, 2021, Humanium attended a general meeting of the Working Group on Environment with the representatives of several NGOs: Child Rights International Network (CRIN), Terre des Hommes, Child Rights Connect, and Franciscans International. The general meeting of the Working Group on Environment was an important occasion for Humanium to discuss with the other members of the working group ongoing challenges, recent developments and future activities in the field of children’s environmental rights.
Humanium and the other members of the working group are working hard to see the right to a healthy environment finally recognized globally and the meeting on July 27 has helped to set the strategy and prepare for the Human Rights Council’s session which will be held in September 2021. This upcoming session will be another opportunity to make important decisions in the field of children’s environmental rights.
In March 2021, many states signed a joint-statement advocating for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment (UNEP, 2021), yet some relevant states remain against its recognition – such as Russia and China. For this reason there is still uncertainty on whether the Resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment will be adopted during the September’s session. In any case, the working group shall be ready to act quickly on raising awareness on and favoring the implementation at the regional and national level, if the Resolution will be effectively adopted in September.
Another important topic of the discussion during the meeting of the working group was the proposal to create a new figure: the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights (International Federation for Human Rights, 2021). As foreseeable, Russia and other important states like China and Japan are against including the issue of human rights in operational areas like climate change, and for this reason they are opposing the proposal to create a Special Rapporteur position. In fact, during the previous session, Russia broke the consensus on several amendments and abstained from voting (OHCHR, 2021).
Some other states raised concerns about the potential duplication of the position of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment which is currently held by David Boyd, but he himself has publicly and repeatedly suggested the necessity of another Special Rapporteur as there is more work to do than what he can do alone (OHCHR, 2021).Between the states in favor, Bangladesh and Germany were really strong in bringing arguments in favor of the creation of the Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights (Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2021). Hence, the September’s session of the Human Rights Council will be a pivotal occasion, as also this matter will be discussed again on that occasion.
Ongoing activities within the Working Group
During the meeting, the members of the working group shared the projects that they are implementing within their organization to fulfill the main goal of the group: the protection of children’s environmental rights.
In particular, representatives from Child Rights International Network (CRIN) illustrated their outstanding ongoing project on the access to justice for the realization of children’s environmental rights. Through a research carried out in 43 different countries, they are studying how children can access a court to defend their own their environmental rights (but also their civil and political rights).
Also, Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI) and Child Rights Connect shared the main activities they are undertaking, aiming at capacity training. Between these they notably emphasized the online training on child human rights defenders working on environmental issues and the child-friendly version of the policy for children environmental defenders.
Humanium also had the opportunity to present its ongoing activities and projects on environmental rights, and special highlights were given to the petition on the Amazon Rainforest through which Humanium has demanded Brazil to act immediately to prevent further destruction of the Amazon Rainforest and urged for the preservation of the rights of children and indigenous peoples in Brazil who are put at particular risk by rainforest destruction.
How to move forward?
Humanium attributes great importance to active participation in working groups with other NGO’s. The working group on the environment is one of the most proactive, with growing and continuous efforts to work towards the realization of children’s environmental rights and the final recognition of the right to a healthy environment.
The future offers myriad of possibilities for advocacy to the working group on the environment and Humanium is ready and willing to pursue each of them. In particular, with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26) coming up in the next months, it is important to be prepared and to be involved as much as possible.
If you want to contribute towards the fulfillment of children’s environmental rights around the world, consider supporting Humanium’s ongoing efforts by making a donation, becoming a Humanium member or joining the Humanium community and becoming a volunteer! Together let’s make the world a better, safer and healthier place for children!
Written by Federica Versea
Climate Vulnerable Forum. (2021). 46TH HRC SESSION – JOINT STATEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS.
International Federation for Human Rights. (2021). UN: Open letter for the Establishment of a new UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change.
OHCHR. (2021). Human Rights Council Adopts Two Resolutions on Climate Change and on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, Appoints Seven Special Procedure Mandate Holders, and Concludes Forty-Seventh Regular Session.
UNEP. (2021). Joint statement of United Nations entities on the right to healthy environment.