United Nations’ Approval of the Revolutionary Resolution on Realizing Children’s Rights Through a Healthy Environment

Posted on Posted in Children's Rights, Education, Empowerment, Environment, Health

On October 7, 2020, the United Nations approved the Resolution on Realizing Children’s Rights Through a Healthy Environment. Our partner, Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI), has published an insightful article about this historical event. This Resolution is indeed a landmark – it represents a starting point for the implementation of children’s environmental rights and a call for accountability for states’ governments and institutions.

Humanium’s Work in Relation to the Resolution

Humanium has been working very hard to see environmental rights finally internationally recognized and is proud to have contributed to this achievement. Indeed, ahead of the adoption of this landmark resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of the working group on child rights and the environment, Humanium has first launched a Global Call for the UN Human Rights Council to urgently recognise the Right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, proudly signed by almost 1000 NGOs.

Thanks to Humanium, the joint-statement expressly mentioned the necessity to ensure the protection of rights of vulnerable people such as children in detention and displaced children. Moreover, thanks to the intense cooperation within the working group, children’s rights have been more strongly and accurately addressed and taken into consideration.

Humanium has also proudly attended three informal sessions of the UN where state parties negotiated the wording and the adoption of the Resolution. Russia was particularly against much of the Resolution’s content. However, the result of this long process of negotiations is precisely this revolutionary Resolution. Despite the fact that it is not a legally binding instrument, it is a text of “soft law” which acts as a catalyst to make changes in the legislation of every single country.

What is the Significance of the Resolution for Children’s Rights?

In particular, what this means is that states need to take immediate and appropriate measures to prevent environmental harm in order to fully protect children and future generations, by always taking into consideration their best interest and by urging states to recognize a right to a healthy environment in national legislation.

A lot of states have already recognized the right to a healthy environment in their Constitutions and for the ones that still haven’t, the time has come to recognize it now, because it is so important for everyone, everywhere in the world that this right is universal. This Resolution will surely be an incentive for the most influential states that still don’t recognize this right, to come aboard and stand for environmental rights.

The Resolution of the Human Rights Council is and will be a piece of history, the future is now open to different possibilities and the first one may be to move to the General Assembly as soon as possible with the aim to make the right to a healthy environment a legally binding right, in order to make states obliged to respect, protect and fulfill this right.

Written by Federica Versea

You can read the full article of our partner CERI below, available in its original English version.

You can also watch the webcast of the meeting here and read the meeting notes here

UN adopts resolution on realizing children’s rights through a healthy environment!

Today the UN Human Rights Council adopted a historic resolution underlining the need for States to take measures to protect the rights of children and future generations in the face of environmental harm, including by recognizing a right to a healthy environment in national legislation, and ‘ensuring that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in environmental decision-making’.

Other key highlights in the resolution include:

  • Deep concern that each year more than 1.7 million children under the age of five lose their lives as a result of avoidable exposure to the effects of environmental harm, while twelve million children in developing countries experience permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning, and approximately 85 million children worldwide work in hazardous conditions, with regular exposure to toxic substances that cause brain damage and disease, amongst other forms of irreversible and lifelong harm.
  • Acknowledging that preventing environmental harm is the most effective way to fully protect children from its effects and committing to take precautionary action whenever there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to children from the effects of environmental harm, noting that a lack of full scientific certainty ‘shall not be used’ as a reason for postponing measures to prevent such threats.
  • Underscoring the importance of protecting children from environmental harm through decisive climate action, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, pollution mitigation, and the sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes, as well as disclosure of information and improved and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • Calling on States to consider their obligations regarding the rights of the child and intergenerational equity in their climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental strategies.
  • Recognition of the ‘positive, important and legitimate’ role played by children and child/youth-led movements to defend human rights relating to the environment, as well as the need to protect them.
  • Urging States to address the critical role of business in causing and contributing to children’s rights abuses through environmental harm, including by monitoring their environmental impacts, ensuring compliance with relevant standards, strengthening regulation, requiring child rights due diligence, and to provide for access to effective remedy.
  • Urging States to ensure that considerations of children’s rights are integrated in a cross-cutting manner to enhance policy coherence across environmental, climate, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian and development activities, monitoring and reporting.

The resolution, which has been the focus of intense negotiations in the Council over the past fortnight, represents the outcome of a longer term process, including the Council’s Annual Day on the Rights of the Child which took place in July, focusing on this topic. 

CERI partners have been busy engaging with States and other partners throughout, in line with the calls set out in our Joint Call to Action, endorsed by 40 signatories. Our efforts focused in particular on pushing back against efforts led by a few States to considerably weaken the resolution in a number of areas, including proposals to delete any reference to the right to a healthy environment, and water down language concerning children’s civil and political rights, gender, and sexual and reproductive health. We are delighted that the European Union and Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), as key sponsors of the resolution, demonstrated leadership in resisting this pressure, delivering a breakthrough resolution. Despite this success, we would have liked to see more concrete commitments with respect to actions by States to follow-up on the resolution. We will continue to work towards recognition and implementation of States’ obligations to uphold every child’s right to a healthy environment, recognising that every single day matters.

“We will continue to work towards recognition and implementation of States’ obligations to uphold every child’s right to a healthy environment, recognising that every single day matters.”