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Climate extremes and child rights in South Asia: a neglected priority

The links between climate change and disasters in South Asia, such as flooding in Pakistan or cyclones in Bangladesh, are increasingly evident. However, there is little recognition of the potentially life-long impact of climate change and related disasters on the wellbeing of the region’s children. In a region that accounts for more than one quarter of the world’s children, with 614 million children under 18, girls and boys must receive greater priority in measures to respond to disasters and in disaster risk reduction planning.

Some positive examples are emerging, including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s Framework for Care, Protection and Participation of Children in Disasters, which recognises the different needs of girls and boys of varying age groups. In addition, the ‘Step Up Campaign’ for Disasters Resilience, developed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) prioritised children for the 2011 International Day for Disaster Reduction, and women and girls for 2012. But these initiatives have yet to influence appropriate action at the local level. To help this process and to highlight specific priority areas for policy, Plan International has studied how girls and boys in South Asia perceive and experience climate extremes and disasters. This project briefing presents the following policy implications:

  • South Asia’s regional and national climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk management (DRM) policies, programming and funding must address inter-connected disaster and climate threats to child rights. Interventions to strengthen community resilience to climate risks must also strengthen household and community safety-nets that protect children from harm, abuse and neglect
  • Regional and national policies and programming for CCA and DRM need to conduct more detailed disaggregated analysis of risks and vulnerability to respond to differentiated needs. This includes more financial resources to better document disaster impact by age and sex, and for appropriate DRM and adaptation interventions that consider the rights of girls and boys, as well as approaches that promote gender equality.
  • SAARC’s Framework for Care, Protection and Participation of Children in Disasters should be adopted at national and sub-national levels, with South Asian governments institutionalising and investing in mechanisms to roll-out, monitor and evaluate its ten priorities for action
  • South Asian decision-makers must provide appropriate spaces for girls and boys to contribute to the identification of risks and the development of action plans for a climate compatible future that takes the rights and well-being of the most vulnerable children into account
  • South Asia’s national adaptation and education policies must support greater resilience of education services to ensure that children’s access to and quality of learning are not hampered by climate extremes – through safe schools and education in emergencies programming
  • South Asia’s governments must empower future generations to better understand the causes and consequences of evolving climate risks as relevant to their local context, through formal and non-formal learning. This can support the effective transfer of adaptation skills, knowledge and resources to those on the frontline of evolving risks

. Key points: – Children affected by climate related disasters in South Asia report post-disaster gender-based violence, child labour, family break-ups and barriers to their development and learning – Child protection issues are rarely prioritised in policies to reduce disaster risk or adapt to climate change – Disaster risk management and climate change adaptation policies must tailor interventions to address critical aspects of child rights, particularly child protection and education.