Children’s Commissioner urges education leaders to support children taking part in climate strikes

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson has written to Directors of Education of every local authority urging them to support children taking part in the global action against climate change this Friday (20th September).

The Commissioner said whilst a number of schools in Scotland had taken a positive approach to students exercising their rights to freedom of association, he was concerned to hear that some children had been threatened with detention or other punishments.

Writing to the education leaders, Bruce Adamson said that the education of children and young people was one of the most important human rights obligations to children but that education must also ensure that they are supported to develop an understanding of human rights and a respect for the natural environment.

Acknowledging that the strike may have a short-term impact on education, the Commissioner pointed to the wider positive impact:

“Their actions as human rights defenders in bringing attention to the threat of climate change and their demands for those in power to take radical action is part of their broader education. It is important that we support those who choose to strike. They must not be punished for doing so.

“Instead, we should be proud that children and young people who have the courage to demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent and acute human rights issue.

“I welcome their passion and commitment that they are heard. Children and young people do not have the same political or economic power as adults, but by acting as human rights defenders, raising their voices and demanding change, they are demonstrating the power of their voices.

The Commissioner joined the calls of other global human rights leaders to support the action including United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet and Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo.

Young human rights defenders working with the Commissioner’s office have laid a report before Scottish Parliament entitled Promote, Protect, Defend.

The report highlights the importance of climate change as a human rights issue for them. In the report they made a number of recommendations to public bodies, including:

  • Publicly recognising the role of children as human rights defenders
  • Embedding human rights and human rights defenders’ education in children and young people’s learning
  • Protecting children human rights defenders who engage in activism and peaceful protest.

‘Human Rights Defender’ is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. The role references rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of which are reaffirmed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Human rights defenders should be protected from reprisals.

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