BRS Secretariat contributes to consultation on children’s rights and the environment by UN Special Rapporteur

On 22nd -23rd June 2017, in parallel to the June session of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Prof. John Knox, held consultations on children’s rights and the environment, in view of his next report to the Human Rights Council, at which the BRS Secretariat contributed. These consultations were co-organised by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), UNICEF and Terre des Hommes.

Whereas human rights law imposes specific duties on States with respect to those particularly vulnerable to environmental harm, children being among the most vulnerable; the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions aim at “protecting human health and the environment” against harmful effects of hazardous chemicals and wastes. These objectives are crucial as the World Health Organization estimates, in its recent 2017 reports, that of the 5.9 million deaths of children under five each year, 26% are attributable to environmental causes, including due to unsound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes. Air pollution alone kills 570,000 children under five every year. Unhealthy environments interfere with the enjoyment of many fundamental rights enshrined in essential long-standing UN legal instruments – e.g. the UN Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1966 Covenants on civil and political rights and on economic and social rights, the 1992 Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc.: these rights include right to life, health and development, as well as many other rights, such as rights to housing, food, and clean water, etc. Climate change, as well as the unsound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes, poses a threat to the realization of many if not all of the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Negotiated well after the rise of the environmental movement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, now with 191 Parties, is one of the few human rights instruments that explicitly require States to take steps to protect the environment for children. The threat of environmental harm indeed affects children today and future generations.

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