On 23 September 2019, at UNICEF House in New York, (centre) Greta Thunberg, 16, from Stockholm, Sweden, speaks at a press conference announcing a collective action being taken on behalf of young people everywhere facing the impacts of the climate crisis. Greta says, “I’m doing this because world leaders are failing to protect the rights of the child by continuing to ignore the climate and ecological crisis." When Greta was eight years old, she watched a documentary in school on something called “climate change,” which she remembers terrified her and her classmates. When the documentary was over, her fellow students seemed to move on, and their worries shifted back to less existential concerns. But, for Greta, once she understood the climate crisis, she could not “un-understand” it – she stopped eating, she stopped speaking, she fell into a depression. Eventually, Greta sought all the information she could find about climate change and its causes and began changing her own habits to lessen her own carbon footprint. Greta turned to activism and in August 2018. She began protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament during school hours with a sign painted with the words, “Skolstrejk for Klimatet” (“School Strike for Climate”). Greta has continued striking every Friday, inspiring hundreds of thousands of children worldwide to follow her example. Greta says, “The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water . . . places that are unlivable and refugees because of it. It is scary.” Sixteen child petitioners, 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. 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. T
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Greta Thunberg and other children filed complaint to the UN

16-year old Greta Thunberg and 15 other child petitioners aged between 8 to 17 from 12 countries around the world have taken a collective action on behalf of young people around the globe. The official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is a protest regarding lack of government action on the climate crisis.

The Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is 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.

The five countries named in the complaint are Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina, and Turkey – some of the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters. Although the US and China produce the most greenhouse-gas emissions in the world, they could not be included. Both countries have not signed the section of the treaty.

UNICEF supports the child petitioners but is not a party to the complaint: “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”, said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. Greta says, “The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water … places that are unlivable and refugees because of it. It is scary.”

Image: © UNICEF/Radhika Chalasani

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Written by Sonja

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