Governments must acknowledge the devastating injustice of the climate crisis faced by Children, girls and young women and the disproportionate impacts on their lives and make strong commitments to prioritize children and girls’ rights in climate adaptation, mitigation and response
Despite being least responsible for this unfolding crisis, children bear the brunt of the climate-related impacts, while possessing the fewest resources to respond and cope. At its core, climate change represents a shocking abdication of one generation’s responsibility to the next, violating principles of intergenerational equity.
Drought, flooding, extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and desertification directly undermine a broad spectrum of children’s rights, from access to food and safe water, to housing, education, freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse, and – too frequently – their right to survive and thrive. Moreover, because resilience to climate change is shaped by broader socio-economic factors, such as gender inequality and poverty, the situation is particularly fraught for marginalised girls and other highly vulnerable groups of children, compounding the multiple hardships that they face.
The climate crisis is the biggest intergenerational equity challenge of our times. It amplifies risks to humanity and undermines the achievement of the sustainable development agenda.
• Despite contributing the least to the crisis, children and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected and are shown to be at higher vulnerability than adults to the effects of climate-related issues.
• The impact of rapid onset disasters and the erosion of land and livelihoods brought about by climate change also exacerbates existing gender inequality, meaning women face greater risks to their lives, health and economic viability than men. When these two vulnerabilities intersect, it is children, girls, adolescents and young women, especially those from marginalised communities in the most affected countries, who are most at risk.
• And yet, despite the climate crisis being the defining human and child's rights challenge of this generation, whilst governments struggle to mitigate the effects in national climate strategies, the human rights of those most vulnerable and underrepresented remain on the side-lines.
• Climate shocks and stresses routinely place girls, especially during adolescence, at increased risk of human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence and unplanned pregnancies and allow for the resurgence of harmful practices such as child early and forced marriage due to the growing impoverishment of communities.
• Climate change as a driver of child, early and forced marriage and unintended and/or unwanted adolescent pregnancy in many communities in African countries is due to deteriorating, unsustainable livelihoods putting pressure on family income resulting in negative coping strategies. Families often believe a daughter’s marriage will lessen the financial strain on the family and mean she is better provided for.
• Largely side-lined during the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis will continue to exacerbate these vulnerabilities far into the future, unless urgent, bold action is taken now. By 2025, climate change will be a contributing factor in preventing at least 12.5 million girls each year from completing their education if current trends continue.
Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all children, women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes requires that governments meaningfully address the rights of children, girls and young women. While some countries bear higher levels of responsibility, all must now work together to find solutions through global collaboration and cooperation. Combating the climate crisis, as recognised by the 2015 Paris Agreement must be based on respect for human rights.
We are calling on the governments to acknowledge the devastating injustice of the climate crisis faced by Children, girls and young women and the disproportionate impacts on their lives; make strong commitments to prioritizing children and girls’ rights in climate adaptation, mitigation and response both during the session and in the agreed conclusions; and support children’s meaningful participation, so as to hear directly from children on their policy and programme priorities.
The following, more detailed recommendations have been developed in consultation with children, girls and young women:
Respect children and girls’ leadership by including children and girls in climate decision-making at all levels, so that they can actively contribute to solutions and response. For climate action to be successful, girls and women need to have their voices heard, be active participants in decision-making and have equal access to knowledge and natural resources.
Mainstream children and girls’ rights in national climate strategies and ensure gender-balanced leadership in climate policy and decision-making to ensure climate change investment and action at all levels is gender transformative.
For States that are the largest contributors to the crisis, mobilize resources to tackle climate change, including, making good on their pledge for $100 billion for developing countries.
Climate policies and programmes should:
Mainstream measures to protect against sexual- and gender-based violence in all settings, including child, early and forced marriage, ensuring that adolescent girls and young women are protected in public spaces, with clear reporting and feedback mechanisms for when they are not.
Create an enabling environment for young people’s engagement where their views and recommendations are respected, valued and they have a real opportunity to influence decision making, and prioritise safe spaces, in climate decision making at all levels, for meaningful child and youth engagement, whilst integrating safeguarding principles for safe engagement.
Address gender-specific barriers to participation and create enabling environments that facilitate the meaningful participation and leadership of children and girls throughout their childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Ensuring climate-adaptation initiatives are child-led will improve their adaptative capacities and promote their participation in decision-making.
Integrate a gender-transformative approach to disaster risk reduction and social protection that protects the most vulnerable and ensures the meaningful participation of children and girls in such policies and programmes.
Recognize the importance of age and gender accessible climate and disaster information, resources and policy frameworks. Information should promote human rights and gender equality and challenge entrenched gender norms that impact children’s rights and resilience, and should be provided via different platforms and methods most accessible to children and young people according to the local context.
Empower girls with capacity to take a leading role in the just transition through green life skills to ensure no child is left behind, and recognise the importance of children and girls’ equal participation and contribution to green energy policies.
These are Key Messages for use during International Women’s Day 2022 and the CSW66
ABOUT JOINING FORCES ALLIANCE (JFA)
Joining Forces is an alliance of the six largest international child rights organisations. Its members are: ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS-Children's Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation and World Vision International. JFA aims to use collective power to accelerate change to secure children their rights and end violence against them. Focuses on piloting and scaling innovative and effective approaches worldwide and be driven by the voices and needs of children.
Evelyn Wambui Regional Communications and Media Specialist Plan International Middle East, Eastern and Southern Africa (MEESA) firstname.lastname@example.org