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Children set homework for adults at COP15 climate conference

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Children make up around one-third of the world's population. Yet a group of young journalists attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen believe their voices are still unheard. While youth delegations have been vocal on the streets and in the conference centre in Copenhagen, the voice of under 18-year-olds has been largely absent.

On the first day of the Copenhagen meeting, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer began his opening address by quoting a six-year-old boy speaking about the tragic loss of his parents after a devastating cyclone in Burma. He called the world to action. 'Excellencies, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen: it is repetitions of this that the world is here to prevent.' Since then however, references to particularly vulnerable groups of people, including children, have been removed from the draft texts for the post 2012 framework.

Side event puts children back on the map

At the only event at COP15 to focus on the rights and capacities of children in responding to climate change, children from Indonesia, Kenya and UK called upon governments to listen to communities, especially children in reducing risks to disasters.

'Children around the world are unrepresented and we feel our voices are not heard or considered by the leaders or governments.' Said Beatrice, 13, from Kenya.

Reina, 13, from Indonesia said, 'International conferences such as this are the place that governments and children can work in unity.'

The side event organised by the Children in a Changing Climate coalition, on Tuesday 15 December, made efforts to restore the voice and rights of children in the Conference of Parties. Chaired by Margareta Wahlström, UN Assistant Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, presenters highlighted how children around the world are actively engaging with adaptation to climate change and reducing the risk of disasters caused by a changing climate.

IDS Research Fellow Tom Tanner presented examples of how children are already playing active roles as agents of change in their communities to reduce risks and adapt to climate change.

Children have rights and responsibilities

A new report Children and Disaster Risk Reduction: Taking stock and moving forward presents 16 case studies of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) involving children. These case studies sit along a continuum of child involvement from building children's knowledge to child-led action reflecting different scales of child leadership.

The report - by IDS and Agulhas: Applied Knowledge for UNICEF and the Children in a Changing Climate coalition - proposes that concerted effort is now required to enable child-led DRR to transform policies.

Leon, 17, from the UK stressed that the Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children rights, and it also gives them responsibilities. Beatrice said 'given the opportunity, the education and the resources, we have the potential to make a difference and take control.'

Homework for Governments

Margareta Wahlstrom challenged the audience to identify concrete actions to strengthen children's voice and proposed that ten percent of participants in the UN Climate Change Negotiations should be children.

The three young participants set homework for the Governments to prioritise children's action to reduce risks and to include DRR in national curriculums. NGO's were called upon to help bring children and governments closer together to address the challenges of climate change. Download your homework!

The Children in a Changing Climate coalition includes IDS alongside agencies including Plan International, Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision, Interclimate and the UK national Children's Bureau.