Our Earth, our right


Sixteen children took it upon themselves to hold adults accountable for the state of the planet and secure their future.

“You are failing us...We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Soon after Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivered these hard-hitting words at the UN Climate Action Summit last month, she acted on her promise to hold the big economies accountable for their action — or rather, inaction.

Sixteen child petitioners — aged between 8 and 17 — including Greta Thunberg, from 12 countries around the world filed a landmark official petition to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest lack of government action on the climate crisis.

They alleged that Member States namely, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey, have failed to tackle the climate crisis and that it constitutes a violation of child rights. Countries such as the U.S. and China which are major carbon emitters have not been named because they have not signed the protocol.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a 30-year-old human rights treaty, that outlines the civil, economic, social, political and cultural rights of children.

Climate change and child rights

Global temperatures are high and with lack of impact action from governments, corporates, communities and individuals, it will continue to rise. Climate change affects our environment causing storms, droughts, changes in monsoon cycles, and increase in sea levels, and flooding. This, in turn, also potentially affects society, leading to issues in health, food security, employment, population migration, gender equality, education, housing, poverty, either directly or indirectly. And it is the children, elderly, and marginalised communities that are most at risk.

As mentioned in the petition, “the climate crisis is a children’s rights crisis. Children have an inalienable right to life under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the “Convention”). The Convention — the most widely ratified human rights instrument in the world — obligates nations to respect, protect, and fulfil children’s inalienable right to life, from which all other rights flow.

What pushed the petitioners?

Meet a few of the petitioners and their stories that moved them to become climate change warriors and led them to file the complaint.

Ayakha Melithafa, 17 years, South Africa

“People who are older aren’t paying as much attention because they will not be as affected. They don’t take us children seriously, but we want to show them we are serious.”

Melithafa’s mother works as a farmer in the Western Cape, where droughts have threatened their income. Between 2017 and 2018, Ayahka, and other residents of Cape Town experienced a period of unprecedented and severe water shortage, compounded by dam levels that had been declining since 2015 and limited rainfall.

Ridhima Pandey, 11 years, India

“Climate change is not a problem which any country can solve on its own. All the countries must join their hands together to solve this crisis as it is a global issue.”

Six years ago, Ridhima Pandey and her family from Nainital to Haridwar. The hotter temperatures have threatened the Ganga, which now faces lower water levels from recent droughts. When it does rain, it is heavy, causing the Ganga to reach the danger mark, threatening floods. In 2017, at just nine years, Ridhima sued the Indian government for failing to take adequate action to tackle climate change.

Catarina Lorenzo, 12, Brazil

“We will not permit them to take our future away. They had the right to have their future; why don’t we have the right to have our own?”

Living on the coastline, Catarina has felt the rising temperature and the changes it has caused. She has experienced a much drier climate due to lack of rain, which exacerbates forest fires and causes water shortages. The water shortages come without warning from the local government and can last for a day or two.

Watch Greta Thunberg’s speech criticising countries and their governments at the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019:

Look up for more information on each of the petitioners and the full text of the petition.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:32:30 AM |

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