Urgent Call to Action: UN Ambassadors Must Strengthen Commitment to Eradicate Modern Slavery

Urgent Call to Action: UN Ambassadors Must Strengthen Commitment to Eradicate Modern Slavery

The Political Declaration for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) does not assert its commitment to combat and eradicate forced labour, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour universally by 2030, as outlined in Target 8.7.

As stated by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Tomoya ObokataI am disappointed that the SDG Political Declaration does not reaffirm the commitment to eliminate contemporary slavery as per SDG 8, Target 8.7. We are running out of time and need stronger leadership by the international community now.”

As the SDG Summit draws to a close and Member States have a chance to reaffirm their commitments to the 2030 Agenda, Terre des Hommes International Federation, together with more than 70 civil society organisations across the world, critisises this lack of engagement and urges Member States to:

  • Reaffirm their commitment, in the strongest terms possible, to the full, effective, and meaningful implementation of SDG 8.7.

  • Recognise that SDG 8.7 is deeply interconnected with achieving most of the SDGs, and significantly increase political efforts to address the root causes of forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking, and the worst forms of child labour, inter alia, poverty, discrimination, gender inequality, climate change, and conflict.

  • Ensure that all efforts and deliberative decision-making processes are survivor-led, centred, and informed, and commit to adopting multi-stakeholder and intergenerational partnerships to support these prevention, protection, and prosecution efforts.

Read the open letter sent to UN Ambassadors by civil society organisations here.

A Europe-wide coalition marched at the European Parliament today to demand action on the child sexual abuse regulation

A Europe-wide coalition marched at the European Parliament today to demand action on the child sexual abuse regulation

  • The coalition’s aims are supported by a majority of European citizens according to new data from the European Commission.
  • As well as more than 400,000 individuals of the public through a petition.
  • And more than 100 young people, survivors, academics and celebrities who have signed an open letter in support of the proposed EU Regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse.
  • EU leaders are called upon to use their political power to pass this legislation and protect children from sexual abuse online.

September 19, 2023 [Brussels, Belgium]: Today, survivors, young people, child rights organisations, and other advocates from across the EU marched on Brussels to ask EU leaders to ‘clean up the internet’ from sexual predators and protect our children online.

In a defiant stunt to capture the attention of EU decision-makers, a coalition took to the streets to show support for the proposed EU Regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse.

Wearing “Child Safety ON” hazmat suits and warning signs, activists highlighted the dangers of the internet for children and called on EU leaders to use their political power to pass this legislation and protect children from sexual abuse online.

Statistics show a frightening constant increase of the use of the internet by sexual predators to groom children and share child sexual abuse materials, targeting more and more very young children, toddlers and babies.

The action comes as new data from the European Commission’s Eurobarometer found that Europeans are widely strongly supportive of the bid to protect children online:

  • 92% agree that children are increasingly at risk online.
  • 82% agree that tools like parental control are not enough to keep children safe online
  • 78% support or strongly support the Commission’s proposal to fight child sexual abuse

Across Europe, over 100 young people, child abuse survivors, celebrities, academics and child safety experts have come together to sign an open letter calling for EU lawmakers to pass the European Commission’s CSA proposal. Notable open letter signatories include Swedish supermodel Elsa Hosk, former Dutch international footballer Dennis Bergkamp, internationally acclaimed Irish actor Jessie Buckley, and French movie star Ludivine Sagnier.

Youth activist Taveres Ferreira said: Every second, at least two images or videos of child sexual abuse are shared online. This equates to over 52,000 images or videos in a working day, of which more than 60% are uploaded to servers in Europe. Behind each of these is someone who has to live with the long-term trauma from their abuse, the horrendous violation of their privacy, and the circulation of their images online. We need to act to clean up the internet from criminals who use it to harm our children. 

“The Regulation currently discussed at the EU level is absolutely vital to ensure that all online platforms make sure their services are safe for children and that they detect and remove child sexual abuse materials. We are here to  urge EU leaders in Brussels and throughout the EU to take action to clean up the internet and make it a safe place for children.”

Brave spokesperson Mié Kohiyama, survivor, member of the Brave Movement and founder of Brave Movement France said: “I do not know if I will ever truly heal the trauma of being raped as a 5-year-old. I can’t imagine the horror of my abuse being online, available for predators and criminals to view and monetize. But this is the fate of thousands of children and survivors. The number one demand from survivors is to have their material removed from the internet and this can simply not be done without detection tools. Victims of online child sexual abuse not only suffer  ‘hands-on’ abuse but continue to suffer each time CSAM is distributed or viewed. That’s why I use my voice to defend these children, to prevent more children suffering at the hands of abusers profiting from technology to spread their heinous crimes. We plead with EU leaders today – please protect children and honor survivors. Please pass this regulation.”

The proposed EU legislation would require online service providers to prevent, detect, report, and remove child sexual abuse online. It would also establish an EU Centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse, where child rights professionals, tech experts, survivors, and law enforcement would work together to tackle this cross-border crime.


Notes to editors

The Regulation was first  proposed in May 2022 by the European Commission and will impose obligations on platforms to perform risks assessments and adopt risk mitigation measures on child sexual abuse. It will also allow for national jurisdictions to issue detection and removal orders of child sexual abuse material. The legislation will create an EU Centre which will be in charge of assessing which technologies can be used by platforms and which will ensure the sharing of best practices across the EU.

Media contact in Brussels:

Kate Wiggans | kwiggans@bravemovement.org | +41 78 951 94 44

Red lines to the Regulation on “prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market”

Red lines to the Regulation on “prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market”

As the negotiations on the content of the EU Regulation banning forced labour advance, Terre des Hommes together with a coalition of Civil Society Organizations and Trade Unions have sent a letter to all MEPs of the European Parliament’s Committees on the International Trade and Internal Market (who are responsible for this file) to strongly call for changes to the legislation.

We believe that these changes are essential to foster better working conditions for all as well as to protect and improve the lives of workers, including of millions children, trapped in situations of forced labour by providing them with adequate remedies. In addition, Terre des Hommes and partners call on MEPs of both Committees to remain cautious against the inclusion of hazardous forms of child labour within the regulation as this could cause further economic devastation making the problem worse.

Please read our letter and red lines here.


Picture ©Tdh/Sophia Garcia

Celebratory launch with children worldwide: United Nations officially recognise children's right to a healthy environment

Celebratory launch with children worldwide: United Nations officially recognise children's right to a healthy environment

Brussels, 18 September 2023

Today, children across the world will come together to mark the launch of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s guidance which, for the first time, recognises children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

This document, the “General Comment No. 26 on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change” clarifies States’ obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, urging both States and businesses to take decisive action against climate change and environmental pollution. In a live-broadcast session held in the United Nations Palais des Nations, Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child will officially launch this highly-anticipated document.

Its presentation marks the culmination of an 18-month global, intergenerational consultation process led by the international child rights organisation Terre des Hommes and co-created with expert advisors, including 12 child advisors from across the world. Contributions from 16,331 children from 121 countries were received in the consultations, making this one of the most inclusive child participation processes in the United Nation’s history.

In his speech at the launch event, Joshua Hofert, Executive Director of terre des hommes Germany, emphasises: “Today is a good day for children – and for our planet. By recognising children’s environmental rights, the Committee underscores that those responsible for climate and environmental damage violate children’s rights. States must listen to children’s and young people’s demands. They must stop making decisions at their expense. They must take action.”



For press enquiries: Stephan Pohlmann, terre des hommes Germany, +49 541 7101 135 / s.pohlmann (at) tdh.de

Joint open letter: We support the draft Regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse

We support the draft Regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse

Dear Members of the European Parliament
Dear Representatives of Member States in the Council of the European Union

The undersigned express our very strong support for the proposal for a Regulation currently being considered by the EU to prevent and combat child sexual abuse.

We need to remind all concerned that major parts of the Regulation merely seek to make permanent, more transparent and accountable, child protection practices which have been carried out by a number of internet companies on a voluntary basis since at least 2009. The Regulation brings these child protection practices and the use of any associated technical tools within a clearly defined, transparent and accountable legal framework.

The child protection practices referred to were specifically endorsed by the EU in the Temporary Derogation, agreed on 14th July, 2021. The Derogation expires on 3rd August 2024.

Prior to the adoption of the Temporary Derogation several internet companies temporarily suspended the measures they had previously been taking to detect child sexual abuse. This resulted in a 58% drop in the overall number of reports being made.

If the Regulation does not complete its passage by 3rd August 2024, we know with a high degree of certainty what will happen. The continued use of child protection tools to detect child sexual abuse online in communication services will be banned across the EU. These are the very services most used by offenders to exchange child sexual abuse material and groom children.

The reports generated in this way account for at least 80% of all reports of child sexual abuse received within the EU. In 2022 that amounted to 1.5 million individual reports. If the Regulation is not passed huge numbers of children will therefore be left exposed to or put in danger. This must not happen.

The reports are essential to find and prevent children from ongoing or imminent abuse, to prevent re-victimisation through the continued circulation of still pictures or videos, and to help law enforcement apprehend offenders. If the reports are lost it will have terrible consequences for children not just in every EU Member State but also far beyond.

Prevention is a major focus of the Regulation
By requiring risk assessments and mitigation measures linked to child safety by design, a major part of the Regulation aims to prevent children from being harmed by sexual abuse, facilitate the detection of online grooming behaviours and reduce the risk of victimization.

Mandatory detection orders are a last resort, to be used only when the risk mitigation measures put in place are seen to be insufficient.

• Detection by the companies is essential to protect children
Child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is evidence of a crime against children and, in the online world, companies are critical partners for detecting and reporting it to law enforcement.

It is well-established that children often do not disclose their abuse, ever, or not until they are adults, by which time the damage they have experienced in childhood may have become magnified and taken on complex forms. Children often do not realise they are being groomed or they do not fully appreciate the harms associated with sexualised images of themselves being published on the internet. Parents and carers, likewise, may not recognise the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse, or they may themselves be the abusers. Thus, while expanding abuse report options for children and online safety education for parents and the public are welcome and necessary they are insufficient.

• Obligations to prevent and combat child sexual abuse are crucial
Because prevention, detection and reporting currently are voluntary, they are made with little or no legally grounded transparency. Moreover, too many companies have chosen not to act at all to protect children or there are significant inconsistencies in their approach.

The Regulation will herald a substantial uptick in online child protection because all relevant online businesses will be subject to a carefully defined, publicly stated legal regime.

• Mandatory detection will result in technological improvements by companies
Every item of software, every programme, can be improved iteratively. But the improvements come about through careful monitoring, feedback loops and through the mandatory transparency mechanisms which the Regulation will introduce. Improvements never come about if the programmes or tools are never deployed.

• Some of the available, effective tools have been in use for over a decade
PhotoDNA was the first perceptual hashing tool to be deployed at scale to identify child sexual abuse material. It became available in 2009 and has been extremely successful in identifying tens of millions of child sexual abuse images all over the world.

None of the apocalyptic visions painted during the debate on the Temporary Derogation, or in the debate on the Regulation, have materialised. Neither will they.

• Law Enforcement agencies welcome reports from companies
The police have not been flooded with false positives. On the contrary, law enforcement agencies have been highly appreciative of the way in which PhotoDNA and other tools have helped them in the vital task of protecting children.

• Rapid action is vital
Police agencies cannot always respond immediately to the reports they receive but, within a victim-centred holistic framework, the speediest possible identification and removal from the internet of CSAM is essential and the same is true in relation to acting swiftly to alert a child to the dangers of grooming. It can prevent untold harm being done to the child. Removing illegal material and preventing grooming complement and assist police action.

• Accuracy rates are exceptionally high and will continue to improve
PhotoDNA works with an accuracy rate estimated to be 1 in 50 billion. For the detection of new, previously unseen child sexual abuse material, the capabilities of new forms of AI are already at a threshold of 99.9% and will very likely improve even further, given the AI revolution we are experiencing.

In the new arrangements anticipated by the Regulation, the new European Centre will have a specific responsibility to ensure false positives are eliminated and are not passed on to law enforcement agencies. This is a vastly superior arrangement to the status quo, where those few companies who choose to implement automated detection measures are not obliged to ensure or improve the accuracy of reports.

• End-to-end encryption is not threatened in any way whatsoever
None of the child protection tools currently in use or anticipated have the ability to see, read, comprehend or identify anything other than CSAM or activity highly likely to be associated with child sexual abuse.

What the tools can do is identify patterns which indicate child abuse prior to the offending items or behaviour entering the encrypted tunnel. Such or similar tools have been used for many years in connection with end-to-end encrypted services in relation to other types of threats, for example to warn users that a potential link may have come from a scammer.

• We must not undermine the Rule of Law
To forbid the use of the child protection tools in association with apps which utilise end-to-end encryption would be the same as announcing the EU is happy to allow the creation of an enormous virtual space that is beyond the reach of the law, law enforcement agencies, and the courts.

Because of the scale of the challenge, forbidding the use of child protection tools in association with end-to-end encrypted environments therefore threatens the very idea of the Rule of Law. Offenders will step up their activity on encrypted apps in the belief they can act with impunity. And in the vast majority of cases they will be right. They can.

• It’s not all about the dark web
Offenders go where children go. Children are not on the dark web. For this reason, perpetrators have not all moved to the dark web in response to expanded child protection measures on the open web. It is definitely true that large volumes of CSAM are exchanged using dark web services, but a high proportion of these images originated on or through the open web or ended up on the open web. The choice is not between tackling the open web or the dark web. Both need to be addressed.

• Public opinion backs the Regulation very strongly
We all accept our personal belongings, even our bodies, being scanned or inspected on a mass basis at airports or at the entrance to sensitive buildings. We do this because we understand and accept the underlying social purpose for universal protection. In like manner, there is no doubt at all that the mass of public opinion in EU Member States supports the kind of measures outlined in the draft Regulation.

Signed as follows


Hany Farid
Professor, University of Berkley
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Adam Hildreth
Founder and CEO, Crisp Thinking

Andrew Campling
419 Consulting

Asha Anderson
Co-Founder and CEO of DragonflAI

Bruce Ramsay
Founder and Chief Technical Officer, Cyacomb

Christian Berg
Co-Founder, NetClean and Paliscope

Christina Thorpe
Head of Discipline, School of Informatics and Cybersecurity, University of Dublin

Christopher Knibb
Director of Governance, The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Derek Allan
Chairman, Securus Software

Edward Dixon
Principal, RigrAI

Gretchen Peters
Executive Director, Alliance to Counter Crime Online

Ian Stevenson
Chair, Online Safety Technology Association

Juan Arraiza
European Anti-Crime Technology Development Association

Jim Fruchterman
Founder and CEO, Tech Matters

John Lundberg
Software Architect, Griffeye

Jos Flury
Project Executive
ZiuZ Visual Intelligence

Julie Cordua

Mark Baumgaretn
Software Developer

Martina Tschapka
Manager, T3K.AI

Matt Burns
CEO, Camera Forensics

Mike Short CBE
Chief Architect Satellite Applications Catapult
Formerly Chief Scientific Advisor Dept for International Trade, UK Government

Nenad Šutanovac
ICT Association of Slovenia

Nizar Touleimat
R&I Progamme Manager, Smart Digital Systems

Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus
University of Swansea Cyber Threats
Research Centre

Paul King
Interpol Specialists Group

Petros Daras
Research Director, Visual Computing Lab

Ray Genoe
Director, Centre for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation

Seán Gaines
Director of International Operations, Vicomtech

Sharon Pursey
SafetoNet Ltd.

Stefanos Vrochidis
Information Technologies Institute, Thessaloniki

Steven Ormston
Polish Internal Security Platform

Susan McKeever
Head of Data Science and AI, TU Dublin

Tom Newton
VP Products, Smoothwall

Yiannis Laouris
Senior Scientist Cyprus Neuroscience-Technology Institute


Professor Adriano Schimmenti
Kore University of Enna

Professor Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas
University of Lodz

Ajda Šulc
University of Mariboru

Aleš Završnik
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ana Luísa Pinto Caetano Menezes Lopes
Member of Superior Council of The Bar Association, Lisbon

Andrej Motl
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ashley Woodfall
University of Bournemouth, UK

Barbara Brečko
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Professor Bent Meier Sørensen
Copenhagen Business School

Cary Bazalgette
University College London

Professor Catherine Blaya
University of the Côte d’Azur

Professor Catherine Maternowska
University of Edinburgh

Professor Charo Sádaba
University of Navarra

Professor Christine Trültzsch-Wijnen
University of Salzburg and the Charles University

Professor Cristina Ponte
Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Professor Daryl Higgins
Australian Catholic University

Diana Pinto

Associate Professor Elena Martellozo
Middlesex University

Dunja Potočnik
Institute for Social Research, Zagreb

Professor Eduarda Ferreira

Assistant Professor Elien De Caulwé
University of Tilburg

Professor Elizabeth LeTourneau
Johns Hopkins University, Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Professor Ellen Helsper
London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Ernesto Caffo
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Professor Ethel Quayle
University of Edinburgh

Professor Félix Ortega-Mohedano
University of Salamanca

Professor Fernanda do Rosário Farinha Bonacho
Escola Superior de Comunicação Social (ESCS) / IP Lisboa

Professor Gary Ellis
University of Guelph-Humber

Associate Professor Gianna Cappello
University of Palermo

Associate Professor Giovanna Mascheroni
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Heidi Als Ringheim
Chair at Mediesundhed for børn og unge, Denmark

Professor Ilan Talmud
University of Haifa

Professor Iyabode Ogunniran
University of Lagos

Jeffrey DeMarcos
Associate Director, CATS, Middlesex University

Professor Jenny Pearce
University of Bedfordshire

Professor Adjunto João Torres
Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico de Setúbale

Professor Julia Davidson
University of East London

Assistant Professor Kateřina Klapilová
Charles University and National Institute of Mental Health, Prague

Assistant Professor Konstantinos Demestichas
University of Athens

Professor Leila Green
Edith Cowan University

Associate Professor Lidia Marôpo
Polytechnic University of Setubal

Professor Luisa Claudia Lopes Gante
University of Porto

Maialen Garmendia
Senior Lecturer, University of the Basque Country

Professor Margarida Gaspar de Matos
University of Lisbon

Maria João Leote de Carvalho
Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais da Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Associate Professor Michael Salter
University of New South Wales, Sydney

Minne De Boeck
University of Antwerp

Professor Nicholas Blagden
University of Derby

Professor Patricia Tzortzopoulos
University of Huddersfield

Simon Bailey
Anglia Ruskin University

Professor Sonia Livingstone
London School of Economics and Political Science

Sónia Rodrigues
Lusiada University of Porto

Assistant Professor Susana Batista
Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Professor Teresa Castro
Universidade Lusófona

Thomas Heyman
Docent, Hogeschool Rotterdam Institute for Social Studies

Professor Veronika Kalmus
University of Tartu

NGOs and Advocates

Altin Hazizaj
Executive Director, CRCA/ECPAT Albania

Andrea Wagner
CEO, ECPAT Germany

Ajda Petek
Safer Internet Centre, Slovenia

Andrea Cox
Director, DigiQ, Slovenia

Andreia Manuela Ferreira de Carvalho
ProChild CoLAB, Portugal

Ann-Kristin Vervik
Executive Director, ECPAT Norway

Anna Karin Hildingson Boqvist
Secretary General, ECPAT Sweden

Ask Hesby Krogh
Director, Digitalt Ansvar, Denmark

Astrid Winkler
Executive Director, ECPAT Austria

Bjørn-Erik Ludvigsen
Police Superintendent, C3 Norway

Bob Cunningham
CEO, International Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Camille Cooper
CEO, Augusta Associates LLC

Carme Tello Casany
President, ECPAT Spain

Costas Yannopoulos
President, Smile of the Child, Greece

Cristiane Augusta da Silva Miranda
Co-Founder, Agarrados à Net – Cofounder, Portugal

Dagmar Kopčanová
Member, EUROCEF, Slovakia

Daniel Camara
Centre for AI, French Gendarmarie

Dawn Hawkins
CEO, National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Deborah Dennis
CEO, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation

Deepa Limbu Subba
Executive Director, ECPAT Luxembourg

Elizabeth Gosme
Director, COFACE Families Europe

Eva Bertelsen
Head of R&D, Danish National Organisation of Women’s Shelters

Fiona Jennings
Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Florence Koenderink
Founder, Family Based Solutions, Belgium

Francesco Zatelli
The Good Lobby

Francisca De Magalhães Barros
Justice Initiative, Portugal

Guillaume Landry
Executive Director, ECPAT International

Guillemette Vuillard
Director, ECPAT France

Hanna Markkula-Kivisilta
Secretary General, Save the Children Finland

Howard Taylor
Executive Director, Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children

Ieva Daniūnaitė
Children’s Support Centre, Lithuania

Ines Marinho
Founder, #NaoPartilhes, Portugal

Ioana Bauer
President, Movement Against Human Trafficking, Romania

Jasmin Abo Loha
General Secretary, ECPAT Italy

Jessica Airey
Europe Campaign Manager, The Brave Movement

Joanna Rubinstein
World Childhood Foundation

John Carr
Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety

John Tanagho
Executive Director, IJM Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children

Jorge Flores Fernández
Founder, Pantallas Amigas, Spain

Julia von Weiler
CEO, Innocence in Danger, Germany

Julie Verhaar
CEO, Terre des Hommes, Netherlands

Jutta Croll
Project Leader, Digital Opportunities Foundation, Germany

Kelly Schut
Director, Free a Girl, Netherlands

Lianna McDonald
Executive Director, Canadian Center for Child Protection

Lina Maria Saldarriaga
Aulas en Paz, Colombia

Lori Cohen

Lúcia Mitternayer Saraiva
IAC Technical / Legal adviser, Portugal

Lydia Konstantinova Zagorova
Director, ECPAT Bulgaria

Malle Roomeldi
Tartu Child Support Centre, Estonia

Márcia Gabriela Ferreira Lemos
Legal Adviser, Brazil

Maria João Faustino
Manager of Faz Delete, Portugal

Maria Herczog
Former Member of the UNCRC and former President of Eurochild

Marija Manojlovic
Safe Online Director, Safe Online Fund

Maud be Boer-Buquicchio
Former UN Special Rapporteur and Former Deputy General Secretary of the Council of Europe

Michelle DeLaune
President & CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Mie Oehlenschlager
Founder, Tech and Childhood, Denmark

Mieke Schuurman
Director of Child Rights and Capacity Building, Eurochild

Miranda Freriks
Director, Abused Foundation, Netherlands

Mirjam Blaak
Executive Director, Defence for Children, ECPAT Netherlands

Narine Khachatryan
Executive Director, Safe Am, Armenia

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen,
Executive Director, Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry

Patrick Krens
Executive Director, Child Helpline International

Peter Wanless

Rasmus Kjeldahl
Director, Children’s Welfare, Denmark

Rima Mufid Nashashibi
Founder and President, Global Hope 365

Ryan De Souza
Senior Advisor, Child Fund Alliance

Şahin Antakyalıoğlu
President, ECPAT Turkey

Stephanie Futter-Orel
Executive Manager, Women Against Violence Europe

Steve Miller
Global Child Protection Director, Save the Children

Susie Hargreave
CEO, Internet Watch Foundation

Szilvia Gyurkó
Child Rights Advisor, ECPAT Hungary

Ted Kloosterboer,
Director, Stichting Praat, Netherlands

Teresa K. Jauregui
Chief Legal Officer, National Child Protection Force, USA

Tito de Morais
Founder, Miudos SegurosNa.Net, Portugal

Ute Navidi
International Consultant on Children’s Rights

Valerie Ceccherini
Secretary General, Terre des Hommes International Federation

Victoria Green
CEO, Marie Collins Foundation

William Wiltse
President, Child Rescue Coalition

Wilson Lins de Oliveira Jr
Chairman, ECPAT Portugal

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls on states to take action in first guidance on children's rights and the environment, with a focus on climate change

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child calls on states to take action in first guidance on children's rights and the environment, with a focus on climate change

Today, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published authoritative guidance to States on what they must do to uphold children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In the face of the deepening climate crisis, the Committee specified obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 28 August 2023 – For the first time, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has explicitly affirmed the children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, issuing comprehensive interpretation of Member States’ obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This Convention, created in 1989 and ratified by 196 states, outlines universal children’s rights such as the right to life, survival and development, and the right to health. A General Comment provides legal guidance on what these rights imply for a specific topic or area of legislation. The now published “General Comment No. 26 on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change”, explicitly addresses the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, outlining countermeasures to protect the lives and life perspectives of children. Philip Jaffé, member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child states:

“Children worldwide have been leading the fight against climate change; calling on their governments and corporations to take action to protect the planet and their future. With its General Comment No. 26, the Committee on the Rights of the Child not only echoes and amplifies children’s voices, but also clearly defines the rights of children in relation to the environment that States Parties should respect, protect and fulfil… collectively and urgently!”

“This new General Comment marks a vital step forward in the recognition that every child on Earth has the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Governments must now take urgent action to address the global environmental crisis in order to breathe life into these inspiring words,” says David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.

General Comment No. 26 specifies that States are responsible not only for protecting children’s rights from immediate harm, but also for foreseeable violations of their rights in the future due to States’ acts — or failure to act — today. Furthermore, it underlines that States can be held accountable not only for environmental harm occurring within their borders, but also for the harmful impacts of environmental damage and climate change beyond their borders. Particular attention is to be paid to disproportionate harm faced by children in disadvantaged situations.

The 196 States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child are urged to take immediate action including organizing the phase out of coal, oil and natural gas and shifting to renewable energy sources, improving air quality and ensuring access to clean water, transforming industrial agriculture and fisheries to produce healthy and sustainable food, and protecting biodiversity.

The guidance states that children’s views must be considered in environmental decision-making and stresses the critical role of environmental education in preparing children to take action, advocate, and protect themselves from environmental harm. General Comment No. 26 itself is the outcome of global and intergenerational engagement, including broad consultation with Member States, international and regional organizations, such as United Nations entities and specialized bodies, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and children themselves.

Joshua Hofert, Executive Director of terre des hommes Germany, states: “Children are the least responsible for the climate crisis but suffer most from its consequences: every year 1.7 million children under the age of five lose their lives due to avoidable environmental damage. And yet, children and young people are under-represented in virtually all decision-making processes on environmental policy. With General Comment No. 26, we have tried to change this: with more than 16,000 contributions from children across 121 countries, this has been one of the most inclusive child participation processes at UN level to date. As Terre des Hommes, we are proud to have coordinated this extraordinary General Comment process with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.”

Terre des Hommes — the Committee’s official partner for the development of General Comment No. 26 — led a process with multi-level stakeholders, significantly involving and engaging children through online consultations to inform the shape and substance of the text. The international child rights organization coordinated a global Advisory Board of experts and a team of 12 child advisors aged 11 – 17 to support the Committee. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as a member of the Advisory Board, provided further technical expertise and helped collect views from children around the world as part of the consultation process.

One of the child advisors, Āniva, a 17-year-old climate and child rights activist from the Pacific Islands, comments: “To me, the General Comment means worldwide change that is necessary as we move forward in fighting environmental issues and take global action in protecting our planet for our generation and the generations to come. It gives children a stronger basis in international law to enforce our Rights to a Healthy Environment. Globally, we are seeing more action for people to protect the environment through Human Rights and GC26 forms an important part of this.”

General Comment No. 26 assists in interpreting States’ commitment under the Paris Agreement to respect, promote and consider their child rights obligations when taking action to address climate change. It also makes it clear that child rights impact assessments must be undertaken for all environment-related legislation, policies and projects, regulations, budget or other decisions. States will have to report periodically to the UN Committee on relevant progress they have made in protecting children’s environmental rights.

“Climate financing and policy decisions continue to neglect the needs of children,” said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Special Adviser on Advocacy for Child Rights and Climate Action. “This must change. The General Comment is an urgent call for countries to prioritize action in every aspect of childhood impacted by climate change, such as a child’s right to education, to safe water and a healthy environment. The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Every government has an obligation to protect the rights of every child in every corner of the planet, especially those boys and girls living in countries that have contributed least to this problem but are enduring the most dangerous floods, droughts, storms and heat.”



For press enquiries:

Stephan Pohlmann, PR Manager, Terre des Hommes Germany, s.pohlmann (at) tdh.de +49 541 7101 135

Tess Ingram, UNICEF New York, tingram (at) unicef.org +1 934 867 7867

For interviews:

Remote interviews with members of the Children’s Advisory Team (aged 11 to 17 from across 13 countries) can be arranged by contacting Katie Reid, Children’s Environment Rights and Participation Officer (and Child Participation Focal Point for General Comment No.26) at Terre des Hommes Germany: k.reid (at) tdh.de. Interviews with the children in person can also be arranged in Geneva, Switzerland between 15 and 19 September 2023. Terre des Hommes and UNICEF spokespeople are also available.