Environmental rights and the position of children in environmental law: a children’s rights perspective

More than two decades after the signature of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, part of the context in which children live has changed. This includes changes to the physical environment. The realization that our current way of life is not sustainable, confronts children worldwide with new threats. Natural resources are threatened by environmental pollution, ecosystems are disappearing, biodiversity is lost. A children’s perspective to environmental issues is relevant firstly because of children’s specific vulnerability.

Promoter: Prof. dr. Eva Brems

Researcher: Danielle Van Kalmthout

Research Funding: none

EnvironmentalGrafiti Street pollution affects children’s health, more than it does adults, because the bodies of children are in full development. ‘Children are not small adults. Their skin is thinner, their immune system not fully developed, the bronchia are smaller and their proportionate intake of food, water and air is larger compared to adults. The World Health Organization, ascribes 1/6 of child mortality and disease to environmental pollution. Asthma, allergies, and some types of cancer related to environmental pressures are of particular concern for children.

In addition, children are concerned by environmental issues as the future adults they are. Children are the future generation that is already among us. Hence, a children’s perspective on environmental degradation should emphasize participation rights in addition to protection rights.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child does not specifically address the children’s right to a clean and healthy environment. Yet together with the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, it can serve as a guideline to identify a children’s rights perspective to environmental issues.

Research goals

This research aims to analyze environmental rights and the position of children in environmental law from a children’s rights perspective.

Research question 1: Does a children’s right to a clean and healthy environment exist?

Research question 2: Children and the environment: why do children need specific rights compared to adults when it comes to environmental pollution? 

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