Universal Children’s Day is an annual day of action for children, by children, marking the adoption of the convention on the rights of child. Children’s rights are human rights. But in too many places today, children’s rights are under threat. International Rescue Committee (IRC), in collaboration with National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC), hosted a multi-stakeholder national consultation on how Climate Change is impacting children of Pakistan in commemoration of Universal Children’s Day 2023, under the global theme of “For every child, Every Right”.
Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairperson NCRC in her opening remarks noted that the impact of climate change on children is a matter that demands our collective attention, and today’s consultation provides a platform for us to engage in a meaningful dialogue, share insights, and develop strategies that will resonate beyond this room.
The Guest of Honor Khalil George, Caretaker Minister for Human Rights in his keynote speech opined that Universal Children’s Day holds particular significance for Pakistan as it provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made in ensuring the rights and well-being of every child. Our commitment to the rights of unregistered children must go beyond rhetoric. It requires concrete actions, innovative policies, and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders involved.
Inousa Kabore, Deputy Representative UNCIEF in his keynote speech observed that climate change causes the health and wellbeing of children to be affected, especially those living in high-risk areas of the country. Children are the brunt of climate change, every year the effect has been seen to double. Disrupting education, malnutrition, water borne diseases. Over 3 million children are street vendors in Pakistan and the number of out of school children in Pakistan is estimated at 28 million.
The highlight of the national consultation was a thriving panel discussion on “Inclusion, for every child amidst climate impact in Pakistan.” The panel discussion was moderated by prominent child rights expert Arshad Mahmood and featured eminent speakers such as Shabnam Baloch (Country Director-IRC), Gohar Khan (Chief Projects Officer NADRA), Izza Farrakh (Senior Education Specialist World Bank) and Dr Naeem Zafar (Mental Health & Child Rights Expert).
The esteemed panelists deliberated upon the impending impact of climate change on child protection, education, psychosocial health of the children in Pakistan. The consultation highlighted the challenges faced by children affected by climate change, focusing on the aftermath of the floods in 2022. The discussions were centered on the impact on children’s access to food, water, shelter, and education, recognizing that these environmental hazards not only hinder these essential needs but also reduce children’s resilience and adaptive capacity. The panel noted that is Pakistan is one of the countries with low rates of birth registration (despite recent progress) – the PDHS 2017-18 indicate that that only 42% of children aged under five had their births registered. It is a permanent and official record of a child’s existence and provides legal recognition of that child’s identity. Not only is birth registration a fundamental human right, it also helps ensure that children’s other rights are upheld.
Shabnam Baloch, Country Director IRC-Pakistan observed that “The collaboration between the International Rescue Committee and the National Commission on the Rights of Child demonstrates a united effort to address the pressing issues faced by the children of Pakistan and work towards effective solutions that are inclusive and sustainable.”
On World Children’s Day we’re making space for children and young people to raise their voices on the issues that matter to them. By prioritizing children’s rights and participation, we can help to build a better future for all.