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Children’s Rights and Climate Change

Originally appears in the Fall 2012 issue

Children have the right to survive. They have the right to safe drinking water, nutritious food, and a clean and safe environment in which to live. Few would question these statements – but to be sure, they are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world’s most widely-ratified human rights treaty.

Yet more and more, the effects of climate change are challenging the fulfilment of these rights and exacerbating the existing vulnerabilities of children – particularly children in developing countries who have fewer buffers to protect them. While they should be walking the road toward greater fulfilment of their rights, many are forced to walk the other way.Too many are literally walking – away from flooded homes and schools, water-logged villages infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, food crops that have shrivelled from drought, or fields buried under encroaching desert. Others don’t have the means to leave, and suffer the direct consequences of their unhealthy and unproductive environment.

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Paula Gallo is the Senior Education Manager for UNICEF Canada. Barbara Strang is a communications consultant specializing in international development and children’s rights. Both live in Toronto, Ontario.