Don’t punish children for taking part in climate action, urges Children’s Commissioner

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson has written to every Director of Education in Scotland urging them to support children taking part in the global climate strike this Friday (24 September 2021). 

In the letter, the Commissioner stresses that children’s right to peaceful protest should be respected by adults and that a key part of education is to ensure that children are supported to develop an understanding of human rights and a respect for the natural environment.

Commissioner Bruce Adamson said: “Student protests have been recognised as having a high educational value as they are often among the first experiences of public participation and human rights defence that children take. This activity can contribute to, rather than detract from children’s enjoyment of their right to education.”

The Commissioner commended the positive approach some schools have taken to enable students to exercise their rights during climate strikes including:

Children’s Climate Change Activism

Commissioner Bruce Adamson continued: “It is important that when children and young people take these peaceful and powerful actions, they are not silenced, discouraged or punished. I trust that you as education leaders will recognise the importance of this urgent global issue and will ensure that the children and young people taking part in climate strikes are given the support to which they are entitled.”

Peaceful Protest As Part of Broader Education

Acknowledging that striking may have a short-term impact on education, he added: “Choosing to strike will undoubtedly have a short-term impact on children and young people’s school-based learning. However, their actions as human rights defenders in bringing attention to the threat of climate change and their demands for those in power to take action is part of their broader education.”

“We should recognise the courage that children and young people are demonstrating in their commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent and acute human rights issue.”

The Commissioner joined the calls of other global human rights leaders to support action including United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Children’s actions in climate justice have been recognised and supported by the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Scottish Parliament through its engagement of children in the Scottish Climate Assembly.

Right to Protest

The Commissioner will be publishing a report on young climate activists’ right to protest in Scotland ahead of COP-26 and pressed the education leaders to support children this week and beyond. 

Commissioner Bruce Adamson said: “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. I urge you to respect and support children and young people’s right to peaceful protest.”

Read more about our work on Climate Justice and how climate change affects children and young people today and in the future, and how we can involve them in decision-making on issues such as becoming a net zero nation, climate change and just transition.

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