New York, 4 November 2022- From 6-18 November, the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where solutions to tackle the global challenge of climate crisis will be discussed. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, stresses the undeniable and long-lasting impact of climate crisis on conflict-affected children.
The Special Representative calls for urgent action at all levels on climate security and highlights the compounded vulnerability of children affected by climate change and armed conflict. Evidence shows that climate-induced shocks increase children’s risk of facing grave violations due to displacement, famine, and increased violence.
“Everyone, but especially children, have the right to a safe, clean, and healthy environment. Not only do conflict-affected children face life-threatening security challenges, but they are also at the front lines of the climate crisis and bear the brunt of the lack of global and national action that the urgency of the situation demands,” said Virginia Gamba.
Although climate change is not the sole driver of conflict, it can multiply risks that contribute to insecurity and governance crises and make vulnerable communities susceptible to increased violence as a result. In fact, evidence shows that countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are often among the most vulnerable to conflict and fragility.
“I am deeply concerned about the dire consequences of the climate crisis for all conflict-affected children, and I fear that compounded threats such as the global economic recession, global or regional pandemics, food and water insecurity, high levels of displacement, and natural disasters may lead to an increase in grave violations against children,” the Special Representative added.
Indeed, according to a report by the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), UNDP, and UNEP, the deterioration of access to natural resources on which some communities base their livelihoods can push children seeking to support themselves and their families to join armed groups, as seen in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Furthermore, in August 2022, the Office of the Special Representative of Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict reported that the denial of humanitarian access to children in the Philippines was provoked by attacks on evacuations in Surigao del Sur Province and Leyte Province before and after Typhoon Rai. Additionally, the Office highlighted in a country report on Somalia in 2022 that the worsening humanitarian crisis was exacerbated by multiple climate shocks, adding to food insecurity and the displacement of 2.9 million people, two-thirds of which were children.
These are merely a handful of the many national contexts on the children and armed conflict agenda that are already exposed to the impact of climate insecurity. In Afghanistan, for example, decades of conflict, environmental degradation, and natural disasters have eroded the resilience of communities to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis and maintain security. In the Lake Chad Basin region, a combination of droughts and displacement has intensified competition for resources and stoked conflict in many countries. Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Sahel, South Sudan, and the Sudan all continue to be affected by climate insecurity particularly due to flooding and/or desertification.
“Children may inadvertently fall victim to competition for scarce resources and become displaced and socioeconomically challenged due to climate insecurity, which may further push them into armed groups, trafficking, early marriage, or other situations of vulnerability and abuse,” the Special Representative added.
In these concerning scenarios, not only are conflict-affected children often excluded from consideration or discussion on climate action issues, but there is also a concerning lack of reliable data on how conflict-affected children are concretely affected by climate insecurity.
“To support meaningful action for children living amidst hostilities and affected by the climate crisis, we need reliable, useful data, which is why my Office is prioritizing the issuing of a novel report. Efforts towards achieving peace, security, and sustainable development will be severely undermined if we fail to include discussions on climate resilience in peace processes and turn a blind eye to children,” Virginia Gamba added expressing that she hopes to be able to launch this study in the first quarter of 2023.
The Special Representative reiterates demands from other UN Officials to translate climate commitments into actions and invest in climate resilience, mitigation, and adaptation so that all children, including those affected by armed conflict, can realize their rights to develop in peaceful environments.
“Child protection must be prioritized in the response to the rise of this environmental crisis. This is the only way we can ensure that no one will be left behind, particularly children in conflict-affected states and regions,” the Special Representative recommended.
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-212-963-5986 (office) / +1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / email@example.com