In 2021, Global Action Plan UK worked in partnership with other organisations on a global campaign calling for a child’s right to clean air. Freedom to breathe aimed to educate and empower youth in China, India, the USA and the UK, to call on the United Nations for their right to breathe clean air. By the end of 2021, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child decided to embark on the development of ‘General Comment 26 on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change’. This is an important step by the UN, as General Comments are high-level guidance documents written for member states. They provide further clarification on how to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in this instance, specifically, Article 24 related to the right to the highest attainable level of health.
As an organisation, GAP UK feels passionately that children, as vulnerable members of society, should be breathing clean air. We understand their bodies, being smaller and still developing, are disproportionately affected by toxic air, both from ambient and indoor air pollutants. This has disastrous effects on their immediate and future right to health, enjoyment of play and learning, and in extreme cases, their right to life.
We are reaching out to groups globally, especially those concerned about air pollution, climate change and the future environment children will inherit.
We are asking groups if we can join forces to collectively advocate for an explicit reference to a ‘child’s right to clean air’, within the forthcoming General Comment no. 26 on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change. The General Comment will be published in January 2023.
Currently, General Comment 26 is open to public consultation for all young people around the world (see https://childrightsenvironment.org/consultation/). In Autumn 2022, draft text will be published and organisations will have an opportunity to comment on it. We are hoping that we can count on GAP International allies for your support in calling for an explicit reference to a child’s right to clean air in General Comment 26.
If this is something that your organisation would be interested in supporting, I’d very much welcome hearing from you, so please do contact me on [email protected]
If you would like to read our White Paper, which outlines the case for why we think children deserve the right to breathe clean air, you may download A child’s right to clean air.
If you have any questions regarding our campaign or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact me. With thanks, Désirée Abrahams
About the Freedom to breathe campaign
Established in 2021, the Freedom to breathe campaign is a campaign calling for a child’s right to clean air. We sought to education children on the importance of clean air for optimal health, so developed an educational programme and worked with partner organisations in the following cities/countries – Beijing, China, Delhi, India, London, UK, Los Angeles, USA, first, before obtaining supporters in the Cameroon and South Africa – to educate children on their rights, and empower them to call for their right to clean air.
We developed teaching resources, complementing the local curriculum, which highlighted the state of air quality in their city, how it compares to other cities, and the impacts of adverse air quality on their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to learn.
We also explained the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, focused on their rights to the best possible health, clean water and a clean environment, noting the absence of the explicit “right to clean air”.
The campaign engaged 29,359 children, which comprised of:
India – 13,584
UK – 5,096
USA – 4,161
China – 5,878
Cameroon – 600
South Africa – 40