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 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.
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.”
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.