Jazmin Burgess, climate change policy and research officer at UNICEF UK sets out what the charity would like to see achieved at Rio+20.
As Rio+20 kicks off tomorrow, UNICEF UK have been asking the UK government to use their influence to ensure the summit can help build a safe future for the world's children.
All over the world children are facing new development challenges: the economic crisis, rapid urbanisation, the changing climate and an increasing number of disasters are all creating barriers to the fulfilment of children's rights. For example, from recent incidents of disasters, children typically represent 50–60 per cent of those affected, and 1 in 4, or 143 million under-five children in the developing world are still underweight
Rio+20 provides a unique opportunity to address these new challenges and create a safer future for children by mobilising political support and action from governments to agree new, long-term approaches to development that will fulfil children's rights and place children on the path to a safer future.
UNICEF UK would like to see Rio+20 agree a new framework for sustainable development that addresses these new development challenges, and leaves a lasting environmental and development legacy for current and future generations. This means that Rio+20 should bring issues such as disaster risk reduction and climate change to the forefront of the development agenda, and recognise the importance of tackling these for a safe future for children.
Similarly, the sustainability policies agreed at Rio should lead to development policies that are built for the long term and consider the implications for current and future generations, ensuring that children now and in the future have all the best opportunities possible to survive and thrive. This means there should be a recognition at Rio+20 about how of the action plans agreed will yield benefits for children and improve their development chances.
Finally, UNICEF UK would like to see recognition that consulting with children and young people is vital for successful sustainability. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "children have the right to participate in decisions affecting them". The outcomes from Rio+20 will shape what the future looks like, so they should be informed by the people who will be the future leaders – today's children and young people. Moreover, children can be key actors in driving the sustainability agenda forward, both now and in the future as adults, so they should be included and consulted on sustainability initiatives at the earliest possible moment. Rio +20 must give a signal that children's participation is a core component of the sustainability framework agreed.
Rio +20 could ensure that children and future generations are able to meet the new and emerging development challenges and have the best possible opportunity for a long term, sustainable future. UNICEF UK urges the UK Government to take leadership at the Summit to champion the needs of children and ensure that Rio +20 is an important step in saving and transforming children's lives today and for future generations.