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Kiribati

Children of the Pacific take on the world

Children in the Pacific are employing mechanisms of international human rights to appeal against world governments for failing to abide to the charter of the United Nations over the impacts that climate change is having on their lives.

The committee for the UN International Law, Courts and Tribunals is hearing the challenge that a disproportionate of the burden from climate change has been placed on children’s human rights.

“We know that the climate crisis has a disproportionate group in the Pacific communities,” Robert Vaughan, of the Regional Office for the Pacific Intervention, said.

The watershed case that involves 16 children, some as young as 10 years of age, are believed to be mostly from Pacific island nations.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says its mission in the Pacific is always to maintain human rights amid the discourse of climate change.

“No matter the outcome of this case, the United Nations committee will draft a general comment on children’s human rights on the environment (they live in) with a specific focus on climate change,” Mr Vaughan said.

“Similarly, the human rights’ committee said an important precedent of future climate change-related asylum cases is from the people who flee the impact of climate change and its disasters should not have to return if they face climate change-induced conditions.”

The committee finding came in response from communications from a Kiribati teenager.

Kiribati was the first country known to show rising sea levels that will swallow up the land mass.

The effects shown on the outskirts of Kiribati’s capital. Source: Iberdrola

The average rise in sea levels has been recorded at 3.2 millimetres per year since 1993 that already is proving catastrophic for the islands.

The Pacific regional office for Human Rights has been encouraging Indigenous people living on small islands to defend their environmental human rights against the backdrop of global warming.

“It has powered them so they could utilise those international human rights mechanisms in order to protect Indigenous rights, traditions and cultures,” Mr Vaughan said.

“These discussions are vital towards the ongoing global negotiations that will take place at COP26 (Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow, as we need to make the case that not all loss and damage can be quantified in financial terms. The loss of culture is more than just dollars and cents.”

Torres Strait Islanders have also submitted a petition to the Australian Human Rights Commission in a separate but similar case, arguing that the Australia government has been violating fundamental human rights over its failure to address climate change.

The regional office based out of Fiji joins 14 UN entities that have called for the “safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environments” that is already recognised by more than 150 states that has powered local communities to press for action to ensure a more stable climate.

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