The findings of “Born into the Climate Crisis”, a report recently released by the charity Save the Children International in collaboration with a team of climate researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium indicate that under the emissions reduction pledges of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a child born in 2020 will endure more significant exposure to extreme weather events than a child born in 1960, including twice the number of wildfires, nearly three times the number of floods, and a sevenfold increase in heat waves.
To establish a link between the issue of climate change and children’s rights and to develop a media plan to address it, Save the Children organised a workshop for journalists and media professionals on “the role of the media in shedding light on the implications of climate change for children’s rights” last week in Cairo in cooperation with the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), the Arab Youth and Environment Office, and the ministries of youth and sports and of social solidarity.
The participants in the workshop included children and refugees interested in the climate issue, many of whom will take part in the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference to be held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh from 6 to 18 November.
The workshop is part of Save the Children’s preparations to hold several sessions and participate in the civil society pavilion at the COP27. It is also part of the organisation’s global campaign Generation Hope that calls “for urgent action on the climate crisis as well as inequality to create a safe, healthy and happy future for children.”
Samia Desouki, director of media and publications at the NCCM, said the climate issue was directly linked to children’s development, protection, and participation in society. Managing climate change better will promote the rights of children, she added, noting that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every day 93 per cent of people under the age of 15 the world over, or about 1.8 billion children, breathe polluted air that endangers their health and development.
Air pollution also causes one in 10 deaths among children under the age of five, she said.
The media has a crucial role to play in raising awareness about the effects of climate change on children, Desouki said. Children also have the right to information that is in their best interests. UN member states have agreed on the right of children to information, and Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that member states should ensure that children have access to information that promotes their social, spiritual and moral well-being and psychological, physical and mental health, she added.
Sarah Hassan, director of communication at Save the Children, said that with the approach of the COP27 the organisation is accelerating efforts with its Generation Hope campaign. Hearing sessions were held in June and July with children in different governorates, she said, and they shared their views on climate change and pooled the ideas, demands, recommendations, hopes and needs of children of different age groups. These will be shared before and after the COP27 to ensure that decision-makers commit to implement them, she said.
Generation Hope will last for five years, during which it will organise awareness campaigns addressing governments, decision-makers, and society about the effects of climate change on children’s rights. The campaign is also meant to gain support for increased financing for projects supporting children most affected by climate change, Hassan said.
Ahmed Seada, assistant minister of social solidarity for civil society, said the COP27 was an opportunity for young people interested in climate action to learn more about the subject, pointing out that volunteer positions to help organise the COP27 have been open for 45 days.
Some 9,900 volunteer requests have been received from 80 countries, Seada noted, pointing out that this reflects the fact that youth volunteers are interested in participating in the conference’s activities. Some 1,000 young volunteers will be selected by various organisational committees, he added.
Mustafa Ezz Al-Arab, coordinator at the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the COP27, said that it hopes to enhance young people’s participation at the local and international levels through the COP27. He added that the ministry has launched the National Youth and Climate Campaign, lasting from September until the end of the COP27, that includes more than 30 programmes. It is also working hard to make the voices of world youth heard at the conference.
Nourhan Abdel-Aziz, director of the advocacy and campaigns department at Save the Children, said Generation Hope is meant to build a movement that includes millions of people to save the world’s children from the dangers of climate change. She added that one of the goals is to make children an influential factor in decision-making.
Generation Hope will demand that governments recognise the impact of the climate crisis on children and help them adapt to and mitigate its repercussions. It will also demand support for economic empowerment programmes that target the transition to a green economy.
Abdel-Aziz said that the campaign is organising hearing sessions with 5,000 children to measure their knowledge about the effects of climate change. The children have been selected from different Egyptian governorates, especially those most affect by the phenomenon. Of these, some will be picked to participate in the COP27 along with children from Africa and the Middle East. At the conference, this group will be conversing with decision-makers, she added.
Hassan explained that Egyptian and Arab children and young people had participated in a hearing session at Climate Week in the Middle East and North Africa, held by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai in March, with the participation of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the Arab League.
Save the Children also participated in the Arab-African Youth Forum, Abdel-Aziz said. It is coordinating with the concerned ministries, such as youth and education, to organise hearing sessions at schools and youth centres and contacting different media to launch campaigns to shed light on the effect of climate change on children. Hassan said that a simulation of the COP27 will also be organised for children.
Six children from different countries and Egyptian governorates took part in a workshop to display their personal experiences with the effects of climate change and put forth recommendations and solutions to decision-makers.
Dorra, an 11-year-old Syrian girl, said “the children of today are the most affected by climate change. This is why our opinion counts.” Hailing from Assiut, Neama, 18, asked “how long should we wait? More stalling will result in famine, especially in poor countries.”
Cairene Shahd, 16, noted that rising temperatures affect crops, leading to an increase in prices and the spread of diseases. Ghassan, a 12-year-old from Syria, stressed that awareness should be raised about reducing marine pollution and imposing fines on violators.
Youssef, 15, from Alexandria, said human activities had resulted in climate change and demanded that more plastic be recycled for the good of the environment. Sudanese boy Assaad, 12, had to leave his “house because it was destroyed by floods. Health centres and houses were swept away and roads and schools were closed.”
Save the Children International is an international charity that tries to positively affect the lives of children worldwide. It was founded more than 100 years ago to meet the needs of children in 120 countries and started its work in Egypt in 1982 by targeting children at risk in more than 18 governorates to provide them with protection, healthcare, and education.
The number of beneficiaries of the organisation’s programmes in 2021 reached over 430,000 direct and 28 million indirect beneficiaries.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.