What does the UNCRC have to say about the environment?

The UNCRC is one of the few human rights instruments that directly says there are promises that States have to keep around the environment.

Where is the environment directly mentioned in the UNCRC?

Article 24

Article 24 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to the best health possible.

As part of that, it says that States should think about the dangers and risks of environmental pollution when they take steps to combat disease and malnutrition.

Article 29

Article 29 of the UNCRC is about the aims of education. It says that one of these is to make sure children and young people develop respect for the natural environment.

What are some other rights impacted by the environment?

In 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Day of General Discussion around children’s rights and the environment. You can read the report of the Day here.

This report says that many more articles of the UNCRC are impacted by damage to the environment, even if this isn’t directly stated in the Convention’s text. These include:

  • the right to non-discrimination set out in Article 2,
  • the general principles of the rights to life, survival and development set out in Article 6,
  • the right to an identity set out in Article 8,
  • the right to be heard set out in Article 12,
  • the rights to freedom of expression and information set out in Articles 13 and 17,
  • the rights to protection from all forms of violence and to physical and mental integrity set out in Article 19,
  • the rights to food, water, sanitation and housing set out in Articles 24 and 27,
  • the right to education set out in Article 28,
  • the rights to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts set out in Article 31,
  • the right to freedom from exploitation set out in Article 32,
  • the right to an adequate standard of living set out in Article 37.

A new general comment on the environment

In June 2021, the Committee on the Rights of the Child committed to creating a new General Comment around the environment, which will have a special focus on climate change.

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