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A landmark guide to protecting children ravaged by climate change – Global issues

Guiding Principles for Children Moving in the Context of Climate Change includes a set of nine principles that address the unique and multi-layered vulnerabilities of boys and girls that have been uprooted, whether internally or across borders, due to the adverse impact of Climate Change.

They are given by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and United Nations University (UNU), located in Tokyo, Japan.

Protect future generations

The partners explain that currently, most child-related migration policies do not consider climate and environmental factors, while most climate change policies overlook these children’s unique needs.

“The climate emergency has been and will continue to be” profound implications for human mobility. Its impact will be most severe on specific segments of our community such as children; we cannot endanger future generations,” speak António Vitorino, Director General of IOM.

He added that although migrant children are particularly vulnerable to travel amid climate change, their needs and aspirations are still being ignored in policy debates.

“With these guiding principles We aim to ensure visibility of their needs and rights, both in policy and programming debates. Managing migration and addressing child migration in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters, is a huge challenge that we must address today.”

Young life at risk

Climate change is intersecting with existing environmental, social, political, economic and demographic conditions that contribute to people’s decisions to move.

In 2020 alone, nearly 10 million children have been displaced following weather-related shocks. In addition, almost half of the world’s 2.2 billion children, or about one billion boys and girls, live in 33 countries at high risk of the impacts of climate change.

The partners warn that millions more children could be forced out in the coming years.

“Every day, rising sea levels, storms, wildfires and crop failures are push more and more children and families out of their homes“Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF said.

“Lost children are at greater risk of abuse, trafficking and exploitation. They are more likely to lose access to education and health care. And they are frequently forced into early marriage and child labor.”

Children walk through mud in a migrant camp in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.

© UNICEF / KC Nwakalor

Children walk through mud in a migrant camp in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.

Collaboration with young activists

The guiding principles provide national and local governments, international organizations and civil society groups with a foundation on which to develop policies that protect children’s rights.

They were developed in collaboration with young climate and migration activists, academics, experts, policy makers, practitioners and United Nations agencies. Principles based on Convention on the Rights of the Child and informed by existing guidelines and operational frameworks.

UNU’s David Passarelli recalls that the international community has been sounding the alarm about climate change and environmental degradation for many years, as well as the possibility of mass displacement.

These predictions have come true as climate-related migration has been observed in every part of the world, in which children are increasingly affected.

“Although these children benefit from a wide range of international and national safeguards, this issue brings highly technical and difficult to access, creating a lack of protection for child migrants”.

He added that the partners emphasized the need for concise guidelines that communicate risks, safeguards and rights, in clear and accessible language.

Protect today and tomorrow

The Guiding Principles “were developed with this specific goal in mind. This tool helps navigate the complex relationship of migration rights, children’s rights and climate change to respond more quickly and more effectively to the needs of children on the move in the context of climate change. “

Governments, local and regional organisations, international organizations and civil society groups are being encouraged to implement the principles.

Elizabeth Ferris, Director of the Institute for International Migration Studies at Georgetown University, said: “While the new frameworks do not include new legal obligations, they distill and capitalize on key principles already established. in international law and adopted by governments around the world.

“We urge all governments to review their policies against the guiding principles and take steps now to ensure children on the move in the face of climate change are protect today and in the future.”

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