Children Human Rights Defenders take landmark action on climate crisis through OPIC

Child Rights Connect welcomes the lodging this week of a child-led complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning the global climate crisis.

On 23 September 2019, 16 children human rights defenders filed a landmark complaint concerning the climate crisis with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee). The Committee is responsible for receiving and deciding on ‘communications’ (complaints) about alleged violations of children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, through a complaints process established by the third Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPIC).

The complaint alleges that five countries (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey) are violating the rights of children by failing to address the climate crisis. The complaint is the first of its kind received by the Committee – the first to be filed on behalf of a group of children and the first to advance the economic, social and cultural rights of children globally. It is also the very first time that children human rights defenders have themselves demanded to be heard in defense of their rights through OPIC. “We have the right to complain”, explains Chiara, one of the child complainants.

“We expect the world leaders to hear us, finally” (Iris, child complainant)

If the Committee finds the complaint to be admissible, the five countries will be obliged to formally respond to the alleged violations. If the Committee then finds violations to have been committed, the countries will have to implement any recommendations made by the Committee to provide remedies and reparation for the harm caused to the children (which may include guarantees of non-recurrence).

In this way, OPIC is an opportunity for children to hold States accountable and for children to be heard at the international level, to act as human rights defenders, and to influence legislation and policy. The Committee can receive complaints lodged by persons in States who are parties to the UN Convention and OPIC – so far, just 45 countries.

Although the complaint strategically focuses only on five countries – all members of the G20 – its potential impact is far greater. “The complaint demonstrates how children can be empowered as human rights defenders to undertake global advocacy, through mechanisms such as OPIC, to put pressure on States around the globe” said Olivia Solari Yrigoyen, Legal Officer at Child Rights Connect.

Empowering Children Human Rights Defenders

Over the past years, Child Rights Connect has been actively working to ensure that children human rights defenders are recognized, empowered and protected at all levels. The 2018 Day of General Discussion (DGD) of the Committee was instrumental for this and the Committee recommended that States should ensure access to child-friendly complaint mechanisms at all levels including by ratifying OPIC. Children are now taking forward the DGD recommendations and advocating with us for commitments to do the same.

Child Rights Connect is stepping up its efforts to ensure that OPIC is widely understood and strategically used, especially by children themselves. Our new minisite serves this purpose. With this new tool, we are ready  to carry out, together with Save the Children and the Committee, the first regional workshop for children on OPIC in the context of the 22nd Pan American Child Congress in Cartagena, Colombia.

“Child Rights Connect hopes that, amongst other things, this child-led complaint helps raise awareness on the significance of OPIC, while advancing its strategic use by children’s rights defenders to contribute to the realisation of children’s rights”, said Solari Yrigoyen. “We also call on the UN to strengthen child participation by facilitating access to its different mechanisms, including OPIC”, she added, “and we urge all States to ratify OPIC as a means of ensuring that all children are empowered to access justice on an equal footing with adults”.

Contact

Ilaria Paolazzi, Child Rights Connect Programme Manager, t: +33 787 067 923; e: paolazzi@childrightsconnect.org

Olivia Solari Yrigoyen, Child Rights Connect Legal Officer, e: solari@childrightsconnect.org