June 9, 2015
Children are among the most vulnerable sectors of society to the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters. Disasters compromise the delivery of basic social services to children, undermining their rights. UNICEF estimates that Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has affected 5.9 million children. The UN agency also reported that Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 affected 2.3 million children.
However, despite being at great risk in disaster situations, little space is provided for children to be able to meaningfully participate in the crafting of policies and programs on disaster risk reduction and management. As a result, existing climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) policies and programs are not responsive to the specific needs and demands of children, exacerbating their vulnerability.
The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) mandates State Parties to take into utmost consideration the best interests of children in their programs and policies. CRC also recognizes the evolving capacities of children, acknowledging that children develop enhanced competencies that enable them to make decisions on their own. The UNCRC likewise guarantees children’s right to freely express their views and opinion on matters that affect them.
The Philippines as a State Party to the CRC must then provide opportunities for children to participate in the policy-making process to ensure that government climate-related policies and programs protect and fulfill children’s rights and needs. Children should be given an active role in the formulation of their community disaster preparedness plans and in information and awareness drives in their communities.
Research shows that children hold great potential in making tangible contributions to climate change responses and DRMM policies. A study by the Institute of Development Studies and Children in a Changing Climate Coalition in 2009 showed that children provide holistic and long-term perspective in analyzing climate change risks and can communicate their analysis to peers and parents. Their optimistic attitude translates into action and can influence adults in mobilizing resources to address climate change.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hence calls for the institutionalization of children’s participation in different stages of disaster risk reduction through national and local DRRM councils and other channels. PLCPD hopes that this will be considered in the ongoing review of R.A. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.