Advocacy through campaigning
Children have freedom of expression, just like any other human being. This freedom is stated in Article 12 of the UNCRC:
The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.
States have to make environmental information accessible to children, including access to data on environmental harmviii.
Yet there is still widespread lack of data and/or knowledge on the effects of environmental harm or climate change on children, of information about the negative effects of the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems as well as of child-sensitive presentation of data.ix
One of the ways in which children voice their opinions as well as concerns about the environment is through campaign initiatives and engagement with the media. What did we find?
- Children and young people have started to use media channels to empower themselves, train and learn from each other, spreading awareness on environmental rights and how to get involved towards their promotion.
- Social media platforms have proved to be useful tools for the implementation of the right to freedom of expression as communication becomes more and more digitalised.
- Successful campaigns have used petitions and #s to engage the public and have used social media and the Internet to do so.
Spotlight on … Advocacy
What is advocacy? It means promoting and defending the rights, needs and interests of a person or a group. Advocating for children means advocating for their rights, needs and interests. Everyone can advocate for children, especially children and young people themselves.
“Advocacy-related activities should be highlighted more, and not understood in a strict way.” (Advocacy Coordinator, tdh - Germany)
Children’s ability to organise themselves and actively participate should not be underestimated but rather encouraged through the organisation of activities and workshops on campaigning and lobbying tools. Advocacy should be conceived as a fundamental and structured, yet cross-cutting, element of the promotion of the right of the child to a healthy environment.
Advocacy and environmental education go together and should not be understood as separate components of the promotion of the right of the child to a healthy environment.
Children and youth fighting for an improvement of the environment in their villages or cities in some cases address their community and community leaders with their advocacy work, while in other cases they address polluting companies, governmental bodies, media and courts. When they are equipped with basic knowledge and methods, they are able to gather facts and formulate their demands.
Good practices identified in this “Green Lights” show that child-led campaigns, media engagement, environmental protection activities as well as education are all constitutive elements of advocacy.
Content wise, advocacy does not just include ECR, but also the rights of others, including adults and natural resources. Children are advocates of their rights, but they also perceive advocacy as something they do for others too.
Top Tips for child rights programming
Implement effective campaigning and media engagement:
- Have a child-centred approach based on key provisions of the CRC to ensure rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, in particular the right to freedom of expression.
- Apply the do no harm principle: Provide safeguarding policies when children and young people engage with campaigning activities and with the media at large – these should be age and gender sensitive, as well as adapt to the specific characteristics of children (e.g., children with disabilities, from ethnic minorities, etc.) – and their intersections.
- Foster a community-based approach to project formulation and project implementation: the more the community is involved, the more the right of the child to a healthy environment will be promoted.
- Connect media campaigns with wider, possibly global, initiatives. This guarantees more visibility and engagement.
- Ensure inclusion: girls, children with disabilities, children living in rural or poor areas etc. should be included with extra care and attention in project activities as they are often excluded or marginalised. Internet connection can be a challenge but alternatives exist: essays, poems and other forms of writing can still constitute a valid form of engagement.
- Empower children as agents and right holders to lead their own campaigns, bearing in mind the principle of the best interest of the child!
- Terre des Hommes – My Planet My Rights campaign - www.my-planet-my-rights.org
- Terre des Hommes – Global Action Month - www.gam-tdh.org
- Child Rights Coalition Asia - www.crcasia.org/my-planet-my-rights-guide-for-children/
- Fridays for Future – fridaysforfuture.org
- Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative – www.childrenvironment.org
- Child Rights Connect – childrightsconnect.org/working_groups/children-and-environment/
- Photovoice - photovoice.org