The eighth meeting of the Task Force on Access to Information under the Aarhus Convention and International Workshop on Access to Product Information was held in Geneva on the 9th and the 10th of November 2023. Child Rights Connect and its Working Group on environment supported the participation of Raina, an environmentalist defender and climate justice activist aged 19 and based in Germany. This opportunity follows the engagement of Child Rights Connect Working Group at the Aarhus Convention meeting in June (see more details here), as part of our advocacy efforts to use the potential of the Aarhus Convention to mainstream children’ rights.

The Task Force has the objective of, inter alia, strengthen the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on Access to Information, including by promoting the exchange of information, experiences, challenges, and good practices regarding public access, obstacles and solutions.

Through the meeting, Raina intervened several times to raise awareness about the rights of children and young people:

“I believe that children and young people, as the main stakeholders of the climate crisis, have played a critical role in driving forward justice-oriented climate protection measures during the past few years. However, we cannot effectively defend ourselves nor meaningfully participate when we do not have access to information. Children’s access to child-friendly information is pivotal for the global climate movement”, said Raina during the session “Public access to environmental information”.

During the session on “Access to information on emissions into the environment”, Raina urged the delegates and stakeholders to include information in a child-friendly format on collateral effects of emissions into environmental education within school curricula. She stated:

“States need to (1) drastically reduce emissions and pollutants in all their forms and implement measures to decrease air pollution, and (2) mandate clear education on this matter including child-friendly content regarding the effects of environmental pollutants”.

Raina also urged the parties to the Aarhus Convention to develop a child-friendly version of the Convention, as having contents that are understandable and accessible to children would represent a real and concrete first step towards children’s participation in the work of the Aarhus Convention. A better comprehension of the convention would allow children to participate meaningfully as child and youth environmental defenders. Moreover, their expertise and real-life experiences are inestimable for the climate justice movement.

During the meeting, a OHCHR representative delivered a statement regarding the recently launched Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment 26 on children’s rights and the environment to connect the specific reference to access to information that is mentioned in this document with the work of the Aarhus Convention.

As a result of the meeting, the Task Force published an outcome report of the meeting highlighting, among other things, that they:

  • Welcomed the adoption of the General Comment 26 on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change of the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Convention of the Rights of the Child;
  • Encouraged Parties to develop a child-friendly version of the Aarhus Convention;
  • Encouraged Parties to ensure that access to environmental information, including health-related information on pollution, is guaranteed in child-friendly formats;
  • Invited Parties to consider the establishment of child and youth advisory councils tied to national ministries or Aarhus Centres and urged all Parties to mandate the integration of information on environmental rights, climate change mitigation and adaptation measures into environmental education within school curricula;
  • Called on respective Parties, other interested States, Aarhus Centres and other stakeholders to take additional measures to promote environmental education and awareness-raising and advance the fulfilment of children’s rights to access to environmental information in accordance with the Aarhus Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

With both participations, in June and November, we are starting to build links between the work of Civil Society working on children’s rights and the Aarhus Convention, with the aim of achieving meaningful sustained and safe participation of children in the different UN processes. Furthermore, Child Rights Connect recently signed an NGO joint letter sent to the relevant national authorities of all Parties of the Aarhus Convention calling for an increase of their contributions.