Philippines. Photo by Marc Edred A De Los Reyes, TDH France.

Environment and Child Rights: we know quite little about it. But we know enough to state this is an urgency. Children suffer a major negative health impact from persistent and widespread forms of environmental degradation, like air pollution, pesticides in water or harmful industrialised food production. This is basically due to their immune system not being fully mature. As a consequence, children easily suffer from skin, respiratory and intestinal diseases, among others. In many regions of the world, their life is increasingly under threat.

Children incur such impact today, and will continue suffering from it tomorrow: their present and their future is under threat. Although international conventions, national laws and policy on both environmental protection, including climate change, and human rights are in place “€their interrelationship remains still largely unaddressed”. This is why, Terre des Hommes (Germany) started to address the issue.


Every year, more than three million children die from diseases due to environment degradation. Despite the urgency of the matter, no explicit international standards to safeguard children against environmental impact have been developed so far.

Highlight action

In May 2011, Terre des Hommes launched a campaign with a view to raising awareness of the links between environment and child rights. The campaign advocates for stronger legal and institutional measures to safeguard children from environmental degradation . One major demand of the campaign is the creation of Ombudspersons for future generations, a demand which is now shared by many other civil society organisations and states.

As part of the campaign, a large Terre des Hommes delegation- including youths from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe travelled to Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 to participate in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. These youth lobbied the conference and asked for a stronger role of children and children’s rights in environmental and sustainability policies.

To document the issue, Terre des Hommes has published a series of studies and reports on the impact on child rights arising from the use of dangerous and toxic pesticides, extractive industries, and climate change. A concept paper on environmental child rights, together with a report on the Rio + 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development are also available.

Find these reports and more on environmental child rights on:

Download these publications:

Rio + 20 report

Environmental-Child-Rights_paper – TDH-2012