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Climate change 'harms children's rights'

By Xinhua in United Nations | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-22 08:28

A senior UNICEF official said that climate change is "undermining the rights of every child today and the children of tomorrow."

Alex Heikens made the remarks to Xinhua in an interview in the runup to the UN climate change summit in New York City on Tuesday.

The summit will start at United Nations headquarters, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the host.

"The session is really about bringing the voices of marginalized people, particularly children, women and indigenous people, so they can be heard and seen by leaders," he said. "I think that's a major issue for children, women and indigenous people."

The summit, he said, "is a great opportunity for us to bring forward the voices of children".

The upcoming event also provides a "unique" opportunity for UNICEF, said Heikens, the senior adviser on climate and environment at the UN agency. He used to serve as United Nations Development Program adviser and program manager on climate change.

During September, UNICEF is working with the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women to organize a panel discussion advocating for the vulnerable people affected by climate change.

The upcoming thematic session, titled "Voices from the Climate Front Lines," will feature five panelists. Three of the five panelists will be selected by public organizations and will include one woman, one indigenous person and a young person. The two preselected panelist will be Mary Robinson, UN special envoy for climate change and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, and Ronan Farrow, former UNICEF youth advocate.

"The specific focus of this conversation will be really about hearing their stories, experiences and ideas on what can be done much better," Heikens said.

The child-oriented agency is concentrated on intensifying the influence of children so they can facilitate adequate protection for them.

"Climate change is really a child-rights issue," he said. "We need to work on it from that perspective."

"I think having a healthy climate and a healthy environment is a child's right. If you look at the root cause of climate change, it's greenhouse gas emissions," he said. UNICEF classifies gas emissions as air pollution.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified 25 years ago, says that children should be protected from all forms of contamination.

More specifically, the CRC declares that children should be protected from environmental pollution, Heikens said. "So from that perspective, it's a child's right to have clean air and live in a healthy environment."

"Air pollution clearly falls in the realm (summarized in) the convention on child's rights," he said while also pointing to access to water and a safe environment as two other important points in the CRC.

He said, "a safe environment (means) not being affected by floods, droughts and disasters."

(China Daily 09/22/2014 page10)

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