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Children’s rights in the face of environmental and climate crises
by United Nations Child Rights Committee
Aug. 2023
Urgent action by States needed to tackle climate change, says UN Committee in guidance on children’s rights and environment. (OHCHR)
The United Nations Child Rights Committee today published authoritative guidance on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change. The guidance specifies the legislative and administrative measures States should urgently implement to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation and climate change on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and to ensure a clean, healthy, and sustainable world now and to preserve it for future generations.
The Committee has adopted its guidance, formally known as General Comment No. 26, after two rounds of consultation with States, national human rights institutions, international organizations, civil society, thematic experts and children.
The Committee received 16,331 contributions from children in 121 countries; children shared and reported on the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change on their lives and communities and asserted their right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“Children are architects, leaders, thinkers and changemakers of today’s world. Our voices matter, and they deserve to be listened to,” said 17-year-old Kartik, a climate and child rights activist from India and one of the Committee’s child advisers. “General Comment No. 26 is the instrument that will help us understand and exercise our rights in the face of environmental and climate crises,” he added.
“This general comment is of great and far-reaching legal significance,” said Ann Skelton, Chair of the Committee, emphasising, “as it details States’ obligations under the Child Rights Convention to address environmental harms and guarantee that children are able to exercise their rights. This encompasses their rights to information, participation, and access to justice to ensure that they will be protected from and receive remedies for the harms caused by environmental degradation and climate change.”
The general comment clarifies how children’s rights apply to environmental protection and underscores that children have the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This right is implicit in the Convention and directly linked to, in particular, the rights to life, survival and development, the highest attainable standard of health, an adequate living standard, and education. This right is also necessary for the full enjoyment of children’s rights.
The general comment further asserts that States shall protect children against environmental damage from commercial activities. It specifies that States are obliged to provide legislative, regulative and enforcement frameworks to ensure that businesses respect children’s rights, and should require businesses to undertake due diligence regarding children’s rights and the environment. Immediate steps should be taken when children are identified as victims to prevent further harm to their health and development and to repair the damage done.
The Committee observes that, in many countries, children encounter barriers to attaining legal standing due to their status, limiting their means of asserting their rights in relation to the environment. States should therefore provide pathways for children to access justice for violations of their rights relating to environmental harm, including through complaints mechanisms that are child-friendly, gender-responsive and disability-inclusive. In addition, mechanisms should be available for claims of imminent or foreseeable harms and past or current violations of children’s rights.
With regard to climate change, the general comment underlines that States must take all necessary measures to protect against harms to children’s rights related to climate change caused by business enterprises, such as by ensuring that businesses rapidly reduce their emissions.
The guidance also emphasises the urgent and collective need for developed States to address the present climate finance gap, including through grants rather than loans to developing States to avoid negative impacts on children’s rights. It also notes that climate finance is overly slanted toward mitigation at the cost of adaptation and loss and damage measures, which has discriminatory effects on children who live in areas where more adaptation measures are needed.
The Committee urges immediate collective States actions to tackle environmental harm and climate change.

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Over 330 million children living in extreme poverty
by Save the Children, IRC, UNICEF
Sep. 2023
An estimated 194 million children born between now and 2030 will have stunted growth unless world leaders gathering at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit urgently accelerate progress towards meeting the goals, says Save the Children.
The latest findings from Save the Children’s new data visualization tool, the Child Atlas [], expose the grim consequences of global inaction in addressing rising levels of malnutrition, which countries committed to end in SDG2 on zero hunger.
If current stunting trends persist, nearly one newborn on average will be stunted every second over the next seven years.
Stunting damages growth and development in children who are under nourished or have poor nutrition and can have devastating lifelong effects—making them more susceptible to disease and infection and damaging their physical and cognitive development.
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to bear the heaviest burden, estimated to account for 86 million cases of stunting for children born between 2023 and 2030, followed closely by South Asia with 67 million cases. The Eastern Asia and Pacific region is set to witness nearly 22 million stunted children, while the Middle East and North Africa brace for 9.6 million cases, and Latin and Central America anticipate 6.7 million children facing stunted growth.
Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stand among the top four countries expected to face the highest levels of stunting in the next seven years with over 25% of their populations currently experiencing crisis levels of hunger.
The Child Atlas also found that more than half of projected stunting cases to children born in the next seven years will happen to children living in the poorest 40% of households, underscoring the impact of extreme poverty on children’s development.
While stunting has steadily decreased since 2000, progress has fallen short of the internationally agreed targets of 100 million cases by 2025 or to eradicate all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Nana Ndeda, Head of Advocacy and Policy for Hunger at Save the Children, said:
“About 194 million children born between now and 2030 will suffer from stunted growth–nearly one child every second for the next seven years. That’s more than all the children under 18 currently living in the G7 countries combined.
“The silent crisis of stunting speaks volumes about how much work is still needed to address the global hunger crisis to reach the SDGs by 2030. If we do not eradicate all forms of malnutrition in the next seven years, an entire generation of children will suffer the ripple effects of hunger. Children must be at the forefront of all decisions at next week’s UNGA; their futures depend on it.
“Although immediate funding is critical to saving lives now, we need longer-term solutions and changes to systems that will stop this crisis from recurring. Reactive humanitarian funding is too slow, unreliable, costly and ultimately ineffective to tackle the complex crises of today. World leaders must invest in early warning systems and disaster preparedness to better prepare for future shocks and mitigate the impacts before it is too late.
We also need world leaders to commit to an overhaul of the global financial systems to unlock the finance needed at scale to deliver the SDGs for all people everywhere, in line with the pledge to Leave No One Behind.”
Save the Children is calling on world leaders at the UNGA to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity. Only by putting an end to global conflict, by tackling the climate crisis and global inequality, and by building more resilient health, nutrition and social protection systems that are less vulnerable to shocks like COVID-19, will we be able to ensure the same warnings are not ringing out again in the coming years.
The child right’s organisation is also calling for greater collaboration, dialogue and investment across sectors with, and leadership by, local communities, to bolster response planning and implementation, as well as our abilities to act early and prevent predictable shocks from turning into crises. Save the Children is also calling on world leaders to scale up low-cost interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition: community-based treatment for acute malnutrition, supporting and protecting breastfeeding, and investing in community and primary-level healthcare.
Sep. 2023
No More Deaths From Wasting: Changing How the World Fights Acute Child Malnutrition, report from International Rescue Committee
Two million children under five years old die every year from acute malnutrition, otherwise known as wasting. Wasting is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in children under the age of five worldwide and increases the risk of childhood mortality 12-fold among kids under five, making it one of the top threats to child survival globally.
But deaths due to wasting are preventable. A proven solution, involving shelf-stable, fortified peanut paste known as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), exists that helps 92% of acutely malnourished children recover. But 4 in 5 children in need of this treatment still do not have access to this life-saving remedy.
As the global food security picture heading into 2024 looks especially ominous, preventing famine-like conditions and increased child mortality from acute malnutrition must be a top priority. There is an urgent need to save the lives of the most vulnerable— children under five years old—as global food insecurity and malnutrition risks increase.
The international community has an opportunity to make deaths from wasting a crisis of the past. But the current global approach isn’t working, and far too many children are suffering the consequences.
Sep. 2023
Two-thirds of global goals for children’s rights and well-being off-pace to meet 2030 target - UNICEF
At the halfway mark towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), two-thirds of child-related indicators are off-pace to meet their targets, according to a new UNICEF report: Progress on Children's Well-Being: Centring child rights in the 2030 Agenda.
“Seven years ago, the world pledged to eradicate poverty, hunger, and inequality, and to ensure that everyone – especially children – has access to quality basic services,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “But at the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda, we are running out of time to turn the promise of the SDGs into reality. The consequences of not meeting the goals will be measured in children’s lives and the sustainability of our planet. We must get back on track, and that starts with putting children at the forefront of accelerated action to reach the SDGs.”
The world is still grappling with the effects of multiple crises – COVID-19, climate change, conflict, and economic crises – halting or reversing years of progress. Notably, over the past few years, the pandemic directly contributed to a historic breakdown in immunisation services, and learning poverty increased by a third in low- and middle-income countries. Goals related to protection from harm, learning, and a life without poverty are the furthest from their targets.
To realize the 2030 targets, countries need to accelerate progress. Evidence shows that investing in child rights drives and sustains results for all societies, people, and the planet, as interventions in children’s early years go the furthest toward eradicating hunger, poverty, poor health, and inequality.
UNICEF is calling on countries to put child rights at the heart of their agendas and to significantly increase and safeguard social spending in areas such as health, education, and social protection. Governments and the international community should also increase investments to develop and implement climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
“We can renew and refocus our efforts and make the world a fairer and healthier place for all. But to do so, world leaders must become champions for children and put child rights at the heart of their domestic policy and budgeting agendas”, added Russell
Sep. 2023
Over 330 million children living in extreme poverty
One in every six children is forced to survive on less than $2.15 a day, according to a new report from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said that the effects of the pandemic as well as conflict, climate change and economic shocks, have “stalled progress” on ending child poverty.
She called for redoubled efforts to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including education, nutrition, health care and social protection, while addressing the root causes of extreme poverty.
Globally, children comprise more than 50 per cent of the extreme poor, despite making up only a third of the world’s population.
The majority of children caught in extreme poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest share of the world’s extremely poor children, with limited social protection measures contributing to the situation.
An estimated one in three children in countries affected by conflict live in extremely poor households. Children living in rural settings are also more affected by extreme poverty.
UNICEF warns that, at current rates of reduction, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) of ending extreme child poverty by 2030, or SDG 1, will not be met.
“Seven years ago, the world made a promise to end extreme child poverty by 2030. We have made progress, showing that with the right investments and will, there is a way to lift millions of children out of what is often a vicious cycle of poverty,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“But compounding crises, from the impacts of COVID-19, conflict, climate change and economic shocks, have stalled progress, and left millions of children in extreme poverty. We cannot fail these children now. Ending child poverty is a policy choice. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including education, nutrition, health care and social protection, while addressing the root causes of extreme poverty.”
* The international poverty lines were updated in 2022. The three poverty lines are:
$2.15 (extreme poverty), $3.65 (lower middle income) and $6.85 (upper middle income). Approximately 333 million children globally survive on less than US$2.15 a day, 829 million children subsist below a poverty line of US$3.65, and 1.43 billion children are living on less than US$6.85 a day.


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