On 16 January 2022, Child Advisor Maya-Natuk from Greenland became the first child to speak at the opening of a session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The young representative from Child Rights Connect, is part of a child advisory group assisting with the drafting of General Comment 26 on children’s rights and the environment with a focus on climate change.
Speaking at the 92nd session, currently underway in Geneva, Maya-Natuk stressed the devastating impact of climate change on children, stating that “enough still isn’t done.” “I’ve met children who are scared, they feel unsafe. And that’s because they really aren’t safe!” she said. “Article 19 in the Convention of the Rights of the Child says children must be protected from violence and that also implicates feeling safe.”
Her statement spotlights the deeper issue of violence against children being driven by the climate crisis. Children have done the least to contribute to climate change, yet mounting evidence is showing climate-related rise in child labour, child marriages and other forms of violence and abuse. Read End Violence’s deep dive into how climate change is affecting violence against children and the strategies we need to adopt to address it.
Maya’s statement followed the opening statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk. The High Commissioner strongly expressed support for the Convention of the Rights of the Child Treaty system, but also warned that “respect for children’s rights around the world is in sharp decline.”
He stressed that children are bearing the brunt of climate change, humanitarian crises and the COVID-19 pandemic. "Your work is vital,” he told children advocating for their rights and highlighted the plans of his office to support young voices. With this year marking the 75th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights, the High Commissioner affirmed that the year-long celebrations will ensure that children's rights remain an important priority.
In March, for the first time, his office is inviting children from around the world to a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities they face in exercising their rights, including in the digital space. The High Commissioner’s upcoming report to the Council on the Rights of the Child will focus on inclusive social protection and will be accompanied by a child-friendly version that incorporates children’s views and experiences, he said at the session.
The voices of children to guide action
The statements from Maya-Natuk and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk echo the need to ensure Child participation in all issues that affect children. Child’s Rights Connect, whose advocacy had been vital in the milestone decision by the UN Secretary-General on child rights mainstreaming, is continuing to make sure that children's voices are amplified to international leadership. The UN itself is stepping up efforts on this front, such as through the UN campaign to involve children in political decision-making.
The End Violence Partnership continues to live out our core value of being child-centred. The Partnership engages children and youth in all aspects of work – as part of its governance, as policy researchers, as global high-level advocates alongside international leadership and heads of state, and as champions driving change in their countries and communities. Learn more about how End Violence is amplifying the voices of young people.
Image: © UNICEF/UN0276439/Almahbashi