New guidelines provide the first global policy framework on protecting children on the move from climate change


GENEVA/NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, July 25, 2022 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Georgetown University and United Nations University today launched new guidelines to provide the first-ever global policy framework that will help protect, include and empower children on the move in the context of climate change.

The Guiding Principles for Children on the Move in the Context of Climate Change provide a set of 9 principles that address the unique and multidimensional vulnerabilities of children on the move both within and across borders due to the adverse effects of climate change. Currently, most child-related migration policies fail to consider climatic and environmental factors, while most climate change policies neglect the unique needs of children.

The guidelines note that climate change intersects with existing environmental, social, political, economic and demographic conditions that contribute to people’s decisions to move. In 2020 alone, nearly 10 million children were displaced as a result of weather-related shocks. With an estimated one billion children – nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children – living in 33 countries at high risk of climate change impacts, millions more children could be on the move within years. coming.

Developed in collaboration with young climate and migration activists, academics, experts, policymakers, practitioners and UN agencies, the guiding principles are based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified in globally and are further informed by existing operational guidelines and frameworks.

The Guiding Principles provide national and local governments, international organizations and civil society groups with a basis for developing policies that protect children’s rights.

The organizations and institutions call on governments, local and regional actors, international organizations and civil society groups to adopt the Guiding Principles to help protect, include and empower children on the move in the context of climate change.


“Every day, rising sea levels, hurricanes, forest fires and crop failures drive more and more children and families from their homes,” said UNICEF Executive Director , Catherine Russell. “Displaced children are more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. They are more likely to lose access to education and health care. And they are often forced into early marriage and child labour. By working together, through coordinated action informed by these principles, governments, civil society and international organizations can better protect the rights and well-being of children on the move.


“The climate emergency has and will continue to have profound implications for human mobility. Its impacts will be most severe with particular segments of our communities like children, we cannot endanger future generations,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. “Migrant children are particularly vulnerable when moving in the context of climate change, but their needs and aspirations are still ignored in policy debates. With these guiding principles, we aim to ensure the visibility of their needs and rights, both in policy debates and in programming. Managing migration and addressing the displacement of children in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters is a huge challenge that we face now.

Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of International Migration

“Although the new guidelines do not offer new legal obligations, they distill and build on key principles that have already been affirmed in international law and adopted by governments around the world,” added Elizabeth Ferris, director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. . “We urge all governments to review their policies in light of the Guiding Principles and take action now that will ensure children on the move in the face of climate change are protected now and in the future.

United Nations University Center for Policy Research

“The international community has been sounding the alarm over climate change and environmental degradation for years, as well as the likelihood of mass human displacement. These predictions have come true with the climate-related migrations observed in all regions of the world. Among those on the move due to rapid climate change are a growing number of children. Although these children benefit from a range of international and national protections, the subject is very technical and difficult to access, creating a protection deficit for migrant children,” added David Passarelli, Executive Director of the Center for Research on policies of the United Nations University. “UNU, UNICEF and our partners have highlighted the need for concise guidelines that communicate risks, protections and rights in clear and accessible language. The Guiding Principles for Children on the Move in the Context of Climate Change have been developed with this specific objective in mind. This tool helps navigate the complex nexus between migrant rights, children’s rights and climate change in order to respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of children on the move in the context of climate change.



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