Panel Discussion 3: Climate Change
Human Rights Council
Statement of Fiji at a panel discussion on climate change and the rights of the child
Fiji welcomes this opportunity to speak on this topic of climate change and the rights of the child and thanks the panel for the informative and constructive dialogue.
The effects of climate change for children are evident in relation to the implementing of their right to health. Children are amongst the most vulnerable of persons who are exposed to poor environmental and living conditions and bear the disproportionate burden of the health impacts of climate change; from acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and other vector-borne diseases all of which are known to be highly sensitive to climatic conditions.
Fiji’s climate change policy guides our adaptation and mitigation initiatives and advocates for resilient socio-politico-economic and environmental systems that will boost resilience against climate change. Whilst individual and community resilience is necessary, institutional resilience is also a prerequisite for child health and welfare. The ability of the health care system to detect climate-sensitive disease outbreaks and respond effectively is crucial in building resilience in child health and welfare. Fiji’s climate change policy includes adaptation measures for the health and welfare of all Fijians, and this ranges from improving responses to public health emergencies caused by extreme climate events to strengthening surveillance and control of communicable diseases.
The effects of climate change for children are also evident in their right to education. Schools located in low lying areas which are susceptible to floods and rising sea levels create a psychological risk to both teachers and students, leading in turn to an unfavourable teaching and learning environment. Moreover, as a result of periodical flooding and water logging of the school and its surroundings, school staff find it difficult to complete the prescribed curriculum on time. This in turn affects a child’s learning process.
Fiji is already undergoing the relocation of schools due to climate change. The relocation includes an integrated approach as this will facilitate better planning and development. As with any community-focused development, the ultimate success of the project rests with the receptiveness of the direct beneficiaries. This requires the active participation of every stakeholder including children, teachers, parents and community members. In addition, proper planning and participatory assessment is required to be undertaken before the initiation of any development or relocation, bearing in mind climate change projection and climate trend. The process of renovation must be inclusive and egalitarian, as it is as important as the substantive right of all children to equal access to education.
Equally important is the incorporation of human rights education in schools, in the context not only of equality generally, but also of climate change and the vulnerabilities which are exacerbated as a result. Fiji is working on such an approach in collaboration with the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and will continue to raise the profile of the right to education and the right to health in response to our commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.