2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the seminal document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, which seeks to protect and preserve the right of every child to a safe, healthy environment in which to develop and grow. In May 2002, the final Declaration of the United Nations General Special Session on Children recalled the need to “protect the Earth for the children. …We will give every assistance to protect children and minimize the impact of natural disasters and environmental degradation on them.”
Protect the Earth for the children.
– UN General Special Session in Children
UNICEF’s report Unless we act now (November 2015), documents the unique vulnerabilities of children to climate change:
- one quarter of the world’s 2.3 billion children live in areas where floods are extremely frequent;
- almost 160 million live in areas severely affected by drought;
- more than 115 million children live in parts of the world with high to extremely high risk of tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones); and
- over 300 million are in countries where half or more of the population lives in poverty: on $3.10/day.
There is clear evidence that extreme weather events spanning the Caribbean Islands to the Mekong Delta, from the Pacific Islands to, most recently, southern Africa exacerbate endemic health and chronic food security issues notwithstanding the durable impact on education and health infrastructures and services. The harsh impact of natural disasters such as hurricane Irma on the eastern Caribbean urges all partners to take more systemic and field-based decisive actions to further the commitments of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and “..to give every assistance to protect children and minimize the impact of natural disasters and environmental degradation on them.” as stated by the WFFC Declaration.
The ongoing cooperation between UNICEF and the Member States of the Caribbean is now elevated to a new level of collaboration with the signing on the 8th of April of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Through this agreement, UNICEF and CDEMA further their cooperation to reduce the disproportionate impact of climate disasters on vulnerable children by leveraging the capacity of governments and regional organizations to promote climate-resilience and shock responsive water, protection, sanitation, education, psychosocial, social protection and hygiene services.
Building on the ongoing governmental efforts across the Caribbean, CDEMA and UNICEF joint their expertise “…to give every assistance to protect children and minimize the impact of natural disasters and environmental degradation on them” (WFFC Declaration). This agreement reflects the commitment of UNICEF to bring its global policy and operational experience in support of CDEMA – and therefore CARICOM – efforts to mobilize intergovernmental and multilateral collaboration to protect children of the Caribbean affected by climate change and promote a child-rights approach and inclusive participation of children and youth in preventing and responding to natural disasters.
Hervé Ludovic De Lys, Senior Coordinator for the Caribbean, UNICEF Regional Office for Latina America and the Caribbean.