Led by the United Nations, a group of organisations have come up with a framework to help millions of boys and girls who have already been affected by climate change.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Georgetown University in Washington DC and the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan have come together to help protect, include and empower children displaced as a result of climate change.
The set of guidelines is the first-ever global effort, which contains nine principles that discuss vulnerabilities of “boys and girls who have been uprooted, whether internally or across borders” due to the negative impact of climate change.
“The climate emergency has and will continue to have profound implications for human mobility. Its impacts will be most severe with particular segments of our communities such as children; we cannot endanger future generations,” said Antonio Vitorino, the IOM Director General.
“With these guiding principles we aim to ensure visibility to their needs and rights, both in policy debates and programming. Managing migration and addressing displacement of children in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters is an immense challenge that we must address now.”
There are currently no migration policies related to children that take into account climate and environmental factors. On the other hand, most climate change policies overlook the needs of children.
The guiding principles, based on existing international law, as well as operational guidelines or frameworks that have been developed by a variety of stakeholders, are “intended to be used by local and national governments, international organisations and civil society groups working with children on the move in the context of climate change”.
Yet the principles, based primarily on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, do not alter or affect any existing legal frameworks.
The guidelines point out that climate change is “intersecting with existing environmental, social, political, economic and demographic conditions that are contributing to people’s decisions to move”.
The data suggests that in 2020 alone, nearly 10 million children were displaced “in the aftermath of weather-related shocks”. About one billion children – nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in 33 countries that are threatened by the risk of climate change. That means millions more children could be forced to relocate in the near future.
“Every day, rising sea levels, hurricanes, wildfires, and failing crops are pushing more and more children and families from their homes,” said Catherine Russell, the UNICEF Executive Director.
“Displaced children are at greater risk of abuse, trafficking, and exploitation. They are more likely to lose access to education and healthcare. And they are frequently forced into early marriage and child labour.”
The guiding principles are meant to offer national and local governments, international organisations and non-governmental groups a base on which to build policies that protect children’s rights.
“While the new guidelines do not offer new legal obligations, they distill and leverage key principles that have already been affirmed in international law and adopted by governments around the world,” added Elizabeth Ferris, Director of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration.
“We urge all governments to review their policies in light of the guiding principles and take measures now that will ensure children on the move in the face of climate change are protected today and in the future.”
THUMBNAIL PHOTO: A young boy trudges through deep mud and river water on his way to school in Ethiopia. His village was flooded by heavy rains weeks ago. (IOM 2018/ Mohammed Muse)
HEADLINE PHOTO: A family from arrive in Bilwi in Nicaragua after being evacuated prior to the arrival of Hurricane Iota. (UNICEF/Inti Ocon/AFP-Services)