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16 children file landmark complaint to UN

SUVA, 24 September – Sixteen child petitioners from 12 countries around the world, including children from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and Palau, presented a landmark official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday in New York to protest lack of government action on the climate crisis.

The child petitioners, aged between eight and 17, allege that Member States’ failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights. They urge the independent treaty-body to intervene and call on Member States to take urgent action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change.

“We all have the right to enjoy our planet and we should all protect that right. Our generation is trying to prevent climate change for future generations,” said 17-year-old Carlos Manuel, child petitioner from Koror, Palau.

“I would be disappointed with myself and our leaders for not taking action. I would feel I failed myself for not having those leaders take action because we are kids and we have a voice to make the change, but we don’t have the power to make it. We could say everything we want to say, but it’s still in their hands to make those changes.”

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.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by the majority of Pacific Island countries and Territories. We support children coming together, taking a stand and asking their leaders questions on what they are doing to combat climate change so that children inherit an environment in which they will thrive,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

The Pacific Island child petitioners, including Ranton Anjain, Litokne Kabua and David Ackley III from RMI and Carlos Manuel from Palau, were also joined by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, and Alexandria Villaseñor, the 14-year-old American climate activist, and 10 other child petitioners from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Nigeria, 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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