16 children, including Greta Thunberg, file landmark complaint under United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

23rd September 2019

Child petitioners announce protest at lack of government action on climate crisis during press conference at UNICEF Headquarters

On 20 September 2019 in New York City, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, speaks during a demonstration calling for global action to combat climate change.

DUBLIN/NEW YORK, 23 September – Sixteen child petitioners – including Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor – from 12 countries around the world today presented a landmark official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest lack of government action on the climate crisis.

The child petitioners – aged between 8 to 17 – allege that Member States’ failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights. They urge the independent body to order Member States to take action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change.

Change needed

“Change needs to happen now if we are to avoid the worst consequences. The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water, places that are unliveable and refugees because of it. It is scary,” said Greta Thunberg.

The complaint was filed through the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a voluntary mechanism which allows children or adults on their behalf to appeal directly to the United Nations for help if a country that has ratified the Protocol fails to provide a remedy for a rights violation. Ireland has ratified the Third Optional Protocol.

UNICEF event

Announced at a press conference hosted at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, the complaint aims to inspire the urgent action needed to curb global heating and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.

“Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Today, the world’s children are holding the world accountable to that commitment,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. “We fully support children exercising their rights and taking a stand. Climate change will impact every single one of them. It’s no wonder they are uniting to fight back.”

Activists from 15 States

In addition to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, and Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old American climate activist, the 14 other child petitioners are from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Palau, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States. They are represented by global law firm Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice.

UNICEF supports the child petitioners exercising their right to bring complaints via the communication procedure of the Third Optional Protocol. However, UNICEF is not a party to the complaint. UNICEF is neutral and plays no part in the adjudication process by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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Notes to Editors:

About the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Adopted on 20 November 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an international human rights treaty outlining the civil, economic, social, political and cultural rights of children – without discrimination of any kind. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Complaints filed under the CRC’s Third Optional Protocol are adjudicated upon by the Committee on the Rights of the Child – a group of independent experts. The Committee is able to receive complaints from children, groups of children or their representatives against any State that has ratified the Protocol. The Committee is also able to launch investigations into grave or systematic violations. For more information about the convention, visit www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit our website.

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For more information, please contact:

Aedín Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | aedin@unicef.ie | Tel: +353 1 809 0291 | Mob: +353 85 1395272