Youth climate activists wait to see if Ireland will be held to account in front of UN child rights Committee
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DUBLIN, 23 January 2023 – A group of young Irish climate activists, who recently highlighted the climate crisis’s impact on child’s rights in Ireland in front of a United Nations Committee, are waiting to see if Ireland will be held to account for its performance on climate action.
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman and officials from a variety of government departments are set to take part in Ireland’s State Review. Oral hearings are being held before the 92nd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva on January 24 and 25.
Unable to take part in climate strikes because of the pandemic, the group of activists, with the support of UNICEF Ireland, spent the lockdown working on a submission to the CRC. Their aim was to highlight the impact climate inaction was having on children’s rights. In September of last year, they received an invitation to attend the Committee in person, as part of its preparatory meetings with civil society. Beth Doherty (now aged 19) went to Geneva to represent the group and brief the Committee on their findings.
Beth said, “I was glad to have the opportunity to speak to the Committee, and to see them taking our report and findings on board. We were disappointed and found it strange that, despite thousands of young people like us coming to the streets and disrupting our education for climate action, the government had no real reference to the climate crisis in its review of our rights. The climate crisis is having an enormous impact on children’s rights at home and abroad, and we hope that this report brings this to the table and results in real action by the government with a focus on children’s rights and climate justice.”
In advance of the meeting, the young people held consultations with a large group of young people from across Ireland to investigate how the climate crisis interacts with children’s rights. In a series of findings, the report outlines how Ireland’s children are already facing significant environmental impacts and concerns due to the climate crisis. While these impacts are experienced across a variety of backgrounds, with many children across the country reporting that the climate crisis is having a damaging effect on their mental health and sense of security, the impacts are not being felt equally across Ireland, with a disproportionate rural-urban divide.
Additionally, the report also found that young people did not feel their voices were being heard by policymakers and that action was not being taken with sufficient urgency, especially given that climate impacts are already driving issues like migration and poverty across the world.
According to UNICEF, virtually every child on the planet is already affected by climate change. Natural disasters, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss can devastate agriculture, cutting children off from nutritious foods and safe water. They can lead to dangerous environments and disease outbreaks, and destroy the safe shelter, quality health care, and education systems children need to survive and thrive.
As humanitarian action falls short of addressing the climate crisis, children and young people are bearing the brunt. They make up half of the world’s population but are least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and other hazardous practices harming our environment.
Peter Power, UNICEF Ireland Executive Director said, “The climate crisis is a child rights crisis, having both immediate and long-term, intergenerational impacts on children. I commend the young people for highlighting this to the Committee. UNICEF has a responsibility to ensure children have the platforms and are supported to voice their concerns and demand action from their governments.”
Notes for editors:
Áine Dempsey is a 19-year-old climate activist from county Clare. She is currently studying for her Bachelor in Civil Law at Dublin City University. Áine began her journey in climate activism in 2019, organising her first school strike for climate justice as a member of Fridays for Future. She went on to act as a delegate for Clare in the RTE Youth Assembly on Climate in 2019, where her proposal ‘outlawing acts of ecocide in Ireland’ was selected by her fellow delegates to feature on the Assembly’s declaration. Áine had the opportunity to discuss her work on the RTE programme EcoEye in 2020 and looks forward to publishing this report.
Beth Doherty is a 19-year-old activist from Dublin. She first got involved in the climate movement in February 2019 as an organiser of the school strikes. She attended the Climate Case Ireland Supreme Court hearing in July 2020, which overturned Ireland’s climate legislation, and has also represented Irish second-level students as the Sustainability Officer of the ISSU. Her climate activism was documented in an RTÉ documentary Growing up at the End of the World. She is currently studying Law at the University of Cambridge, working on advocacy within the university as well as conservation of the poles. She sees this report as a key mechanism for ensuring the voices of young people are represented and protected in decision-making on the climate crisis.
Caitlin Faye Maniti is an 18-year-old student activist from Donegal. Through her involvement in Green schools at a primary and secondary school level, she fostered her passion for climate justice slowly but surely. In 2019, she became more active; taking part as a delegate at the RTE Youth Assembly for Climate, advocating for students’ rights as an elected officer for the Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU) and so much more. Currently, she has helped highlight the power of young rural voices and climate activism in her region. Caitlin had success in implementing the An Taisce #love30 Campaign in her town, bringing awareness about the MICA Crisis and its effects on students and uplifting students’ voices as a member of the ISSU.
Theresa Rose Sebastian is an 18-year-old climate and social justice activist. She is of South Indian heritage but has also resided in Ireland for many years. Theresa has been involved in climate activism ever since the summer of 2018 when her state of Kerala was flooded by torrential rains that swept destruction and death throughout the land she called home. Ever since, she’s been actively organising and channelling change throughout national and international systems. This report is the product of the values of youth power, climate justice, and community organising that she and her fellow co-writers share and strongly believe in.
Jessica Dunne is an 17-year-old student activist from Dublin, Ireland. She got involved in activism through the climate crisis and this led to her becoming involved in general activism, realising the connectivity between all social injustice. She is a member of Fridays For Future, working on a local, national, and international level. She was the DLR regional officer for the Irish Second-Level Students Union from 2019 to 2021 and she is a TEDx speaker and mentor, giving a talk stressing the importance of intersectionality in 2020.
Rose Guy is 18 years old and studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
Child rights are the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Adopted on November 20 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child or CRC, recognised that while children are entitled to the same human rights as adults, they also have specific rights that recognise their special needs and evolving capacities. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention provides the legal and moral framework for all of UNICEF’s work.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the world’s most ratified human rights treaty and Ireland ratified the CRC in 1992.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
The main way the Convention is enforced is through ongoing monitoring by an independent team of experts called the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Governments that ratify the Convention or one of its Optional Protocols must report to the Committee, which is made up of 18 experts in the field of children’s rights from different countries and legal systems. They are nominated and elected by States parties but act in a personal capacity, not as representatives of their countries.
Reports to the Committee outline the situation of children in the country and explain the measures taken by the State to realize their rights. Reports are submitted by the State within two years of ratification and every five years thereafter. The Committee has adopted guidelines detailing the information States are expected to give in their implementation reports.
In reviewing States’ reports, the Committee looks at how well governments are setting and meeting the standards for the realization and protection of children’s rights as outlined in the Convention or Optional Protocol. Along with this regular reporting, the Committee may request additional information or complementary reports.
In its reviews, the Committee provides implementation and improvement recommendations to each individual State, which it will review the next time the country is examined.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
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Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, +353 87 1308070, firstname.lastname@example.org