A Bangladeshi child plays at a climate refugees shelter center in Sadarghat, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15 February 2020 | Photo: EPA/MONIRUL ALAM
A Bangladeshi child plays at a climate refugees shelter center in Sadarghat, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15 February 2020 | Photo: EPA/MONIRUL ALAM

UNICEF and IOM (International Organization for Migration) launched new migrant child protection guidelines to safeguard them from climate change. In 2020 approximately 10 million children became displaced due to meteorological-induced shocks, the agencies said.

UNICEF, IOM, Georgetown University and the United Nation's University launched new guidelines to offer an initial global political framework aimed at helping to "protect, include and promote migrant child empowerment" within the context of climate change.

According to a note, the guidelines ("Guiding Principles for Children on the Move in the Context of Climate Change") list nine principles that address the unique and complex vulnerability of children, weather they are internally displaced or forced to cross their country borders due to the negative impact of climate change.

UN agencies pointed out that in 2020, approximately 10 million children were displaced due to climate change. Overall nearly 1 billion children -- nearly half of the world's total child population of 2.2 billion -- live in 33 countries which are at high risk of the negative effects of climate change. This means that millions more could be forced to migrate in the coming years.

Guiding principles to develop child-protection policies

At present, the majority of child migration policies do not take climate change into consideration, UN agencies note. Moreover, the majority of the climate change policies fail to consider the specific needs of children, they say.

The guidelines point out that climate change factors are intertwined with environmental, social, political, economic and per-existing demographic conditions which contribute to people's decision to move away.

The principles are based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child and existing guidelines and aim to provide national and local governments, international organizations and civil society groups a framework to build policies to safeguard the rights of children.

Among the principles listed in the document are: the need to use a rights-based approach, the need to safeguard the child's best interest, the necessity to safeguard family unity and access to education, health and social services.

Calling on governments to protect children

Institutions and organizations are asking governments, local and regional stakeholders, international organizations and civil society groups to implement the guidelines to help child protection, inclusion and the child empowerment for those forced to migrate due to climate change.

"Every day, the rising sea levels, hurricanes, fires and crop-loss are forcing an increasing number of children and families away from their homes," stated Catherine Russell, UNICEF's Director General.

"The climate change emergency will continue to have severe consequences on human mobility. These consequences will be particularly felt by specific segments of our communities, such as children. We cannot put future generations at risk," underscored António Vitorino, IOM's Director General.

"Migrant children are particularly vulnerable when they move within a climate change context, yet their aspirations and needs are overlooked in the political debates. These guidelines are intended to raise awareness and provide visibility for their needs, both in the political debates and in policy programs. Managing migration and addressing the issue of children moving due to climate change, environmental decline and catastrophes presents an enormous challenge that we must face now," Vitorino said.


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