Story | 03 Dec, 2022

Connecting children’s human rights and a healthy ocean

CEESP News: Elisa Morgera, Professor of Global Environmental Law and the Director of the UKRI GCRF One Ocean Hub and IUCN CEESP member, & Senia Febrica, Knowledge Exchange Associate, One Ocean Hub. 


This blogpost spotlights the research and partnerships undertaken by the One Ocean Hub and various governments, UN bodies, and civil society partners to advance the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework draft targets to ensure full and effective representation and participation of children and youth in decision making on global biodiversity.


The discussions of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework have emphasised the need for capacity-building and participation at all level of government of children and youth in the implementation of the Framework. Draft targets 21 and 22 explicitly mention the need to ensure the full, equitable, inclusive, informed and effective representation and participation for girls, children, and youth in decision making on global biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat, 2022). The One Ocean Hub is partnering with governments, UN bodies, and civil society organisations to advance understanding and protection of children’s and young people’s human rights to a healthy ocean and advocate for their meaningful participation in ocean-climate-biodiversity decision making processes. 

The Hub signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI) to ensure that a healthy ocean is considered part of children’s human right to a healthy environment and a safe climate. CERI comprises of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, UNEP, WWF, UNICEF, Save the Children and other like-minded organisations. The Hub also joined the Working Group on children’s rights to a healthy environment convened by Child Rights Connect, to contribute to monitoring of implementation of children’s fundamental right to a safe and healthy environment by international human rights bodies.

The Hub’s main focus in 2022 has been contributing to the development of draft of a new UN General Comment No. 26 which will provide international guidance on how children’s rights are impacted by the environmental crisis and what governments must do to uphold these rights Hub researchers responded to an initial questionnaire on how children’s rights are impacted by the environmental crisis (see here) and contributed to various thematic consultations, including on children’s right to education. In addition, the Hub was invited to lead a thematic consultation on biodiversity. As a result of all these inputs, the zero draft of the UN General Comment refers to marine pollution as one of the threats to children’s right to a healthy environment (see zero draft here, published in November 2022. The Hub wishes to invite all relevant partners and stakeholders to contribute to the second round of consultation on the future content of General Comment No. 26 that is open until 15 February 2023. The link to participate is available here.

In addition, with CERI, the Hub has contributed to the content of a new free online training course on children’s human rights and the environment for 13-15 years old in partnership with the NGO “Articolo12”, Terre des Hommes, and UNEP. The course was launched on 12th July 2022 and is titled ‘Our Rights, Our Planet – stand up for the environment.’ It features interviews with activists, scientists and experts from around the world, animated lessons, and interactive action games (UNEP, 2022). 

Since 2021, the Hub has partnered with UNEP and others in supporting youth participation at UN Climate meetings to address children’s human rights at the ocean-climate nexus. We invited UNEP to our side-event on children's rights at the Ocean Pavilion at the Glasgow Climate COP26, and started collaborating with the Youth Policy Advisory Council of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance on international decision-making on deep-seabed mining (with potential to expand on other areas: Convention on Biological Diversity, plastics, and blue economy).  In the run up to (COP)27, the Hub supported multi-partner position papers, including A COP fit for Children and a position paper titled Incorporating Children’s Rights into Climate Action, which based on Hub contributions, includes a section focused on Ocean-based Action at the UNFCCC. At the first ever Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27, the Hub co-organised an event titled “Advancing human rights standards in nature-based solutions: lessons from land to sea” on 16th November 2022. It focused on biodiversity finance and the ocean-climate-human rights nexus and platformed children and young people’ voices on these themes. Through collaboration with partners the Hub aims to highlight the connections between a healthy ocean, biodiversity loss, and children’s human rights that are often overlooked.