UNICEF’s Initiatives to Protect Children’s Rights to a Healthy Environment

According to UNICEF, its “approach to environmental sustainability aims to: reduce the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on children’s rights” and “identify and enhance opportunities to advance the rights of children which arise from global and local attention on climate change and environmental degradation.” To achieve these objectives, UNICEF has undertaken several initiatives at the global and local levels.

For example, at a country-specific level, in Burundi, UNICEF is implementing Project Lumiére, which enables community groups to purchase bicycle pedal-powered generators and LED lights that can provide light for a household for up to ten days. According to UNICEF, in “Burundi, one of the world’s most energy-impoverished nations in which only 3% of people have access to energy, access to energy protects child health and safety, reducing harmful emissions from the burning of kerosene and firewood in homes, as well as providing light at night for children to study.” In Zambia, UNICEF’s Unite4Climate programme has trained over 1000 young people to be Climate Ambassadors. Ambassadors have undertaken a number of activities, including training peers on the causes and potential solutions to climate change, hosting radio shows on climate change, creating a model for a floating school in an area of Zambia at-risk to intense flooding, and meeting with leaders on the global stage to explore youth perspectives on climate policy.

At the global level, for example, UNICEF in preparation for the September 2014 UN Climate Summit used social media and the web to call for applications from young people to help create a climate change digital map. UNICEF sent the 43 chosen participants in the project, who represent youth from throughout the world, an instruction kit on how to explore and report from their communities on “ how weather and climatic conditions impacted their community; evidence of man-made destruction and pollution; other hazards in their physical environments; and signs of positive action.” The final digital map allows internet users to click on specific locations to access the reports submitted by the participants.

Further Information

UNICEF’s environment and climate change page: http://www.unicef.org/environment/; the climate change digital map: http://climatesummit.unicef-gis.org/.