“Policy guidance for promoting and protecting children’s rights to a healthy environment in the ASEAN region”
Virtual Expert Working Group Series July 2020
The climate and environmental crisis can undermine the fundamental rights of every child including through links between ecosystem stability, human-wildlife contact and the emergence of zoonotic disease. Climate change, environmental degradation including pollution, biodiversity loss and the subsequent linkages to human health can erase much of the gains we have made on child health and well-being so far. The East Asia and Pacific region is among the most impacted by climate change and environmental degradation in the world. Climate change is particularly dangerous for children in developing countries that have a disproportionate share of climate-related hazards and risks, making it even harder for these countries to eradicate extreme poverty and enhance social equity. From 2011 to 2015, 45% of global disasters occurred in the region. It is home to 580 million children (27% of the global child population), of which more than 100 million children live in areas that are at high risk of tropical cyclones and over 90% of children live in areas with polluted air. Furthermore, use of single use plastics and inability to provide adequate waste management results in reduced ecosystem health.
Despite these significant environmental and climate change threats to child rights, there has been no systematic effort to enable knowledge sharing and mutual learning regarding action to promote children’s rights in relation to the environment at international, regional, national and local levels. Those concerned with children’s rights and those who protect the environment often focus on one topic to the exclusion of the other.
The countries in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made significant progress in children’s rights over the years but there is still room for strengthening children’s rights to the environment in the region. At the 21st ASEAN summit in 2012, the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration was adopted unanimously by ASEAN member states, incorporating the “right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment”– however guidance on children’s rights to the environment is lacking and needs strengthening, especially in light of the significant climate and environmental challenges in the region.
UN OHCHR as the leading UN entity on human rights, UNEP as the UN’s leading agency on the environment and UNICEF as the UN’s children’s agency intend to jointly address these gaps in protecting and promoting children’s rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment through this proposed joint expert group meeting. UN OHCHR* Regional Office for South-East Asia, UNICEF EAPRO* and UNEP ROAP* intend to ensure that children’s rights and environmental protection are addressed together and that the crucial intersection between the two is clearly communicated to stakeholders who work on children’s rights as well as those who work in the field of environmental protection, conservation and sustainable development. This meeting will focus on identifying common challenges and opportunities in the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
To facilitate cross-country exchange on the relationship between children’s rights and the environment and regional collaboration among the ASEAN countries to promote and defend children’s rights to a healthy environment.
To develop a draft of policy guidance for advancing children’s rights to a healthy environment in ASEAN.
To provide regional input to the related UN Human Rights Council including its mechanisms and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child resolutions and recommendations.
There is a common understanding among UNICEF EAPRO, UNEP ROAP, UN OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) and experts in ASEAN Member States on policy guidance for laying the foundation for promoting and protecting children’s rights to the environment in the ASEAN region
UNICEF EAPRO, UNEP ROAP, UN OHCHR and ASEAN stakeholders are using the common policy guidance to strengthen awareness of children’s rights to a healthy environment and further reinforce the political will to protect them.
Using the policy guidance on children’s rights to a healthy environment as a best practice example for sharing at the international level with relevant climate and human rights bodies for replication in other regions, including Human Rights Council, Committee on Rights of the Child, Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties (CBD COP) and UN Environment Assembly etc.
Intended Audience and Participants
UNICEF EAPRO, UNEP ROAP and OHCHR SEARO will convene youth representatives, lawyers and other specialists, from each ASEAN Member State, who have expertise on environment and children’s rights and/or human rights. Starting from the basis of existing principles elaborated by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment (hereafter, ‘the Special Rapporteur’) and UNICEF, the experts will work together to elaborate common policy guidance that is specifically relevant to ASEAN. This guidance can be used by governments as well as civil society in the region to strengthen awareness of, and further reinforce the political will and actions to protect and promote children’s rights to a healthy environment.
UNICEF EAPRO, UNEP ROAP and OHCHR SEARO will bring together experts on child rights and environment from each ASEAN country for a series of 2 virtual expert working group meetings across 3 days throughout July 2020. The agencies will jointly identify two experts from each ASEAN country – one specializing in children’s rights or human rights and one environmental lawyer. The agencies will also invite one young person from each ASEAN country who is actively involved in youth initiatives in their home country. The Global Initiative convened a regional consultation in Bogor, Indonesia in October 2019 whose youth participants could be potential candidates to participate in the expert working group meeting. Along with the country experts identified, relevant UNICEF EAPRO, UNEP ROAP and OHCHR SEARO staff and consultants will also participate in the workshop.
Recommended Reference Materials
Reports by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment: