The Rights of Future Generations
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As the global population soars beyond the 7 billion mark, the world’s natural resources are under tremendous strain. Thousands of children, many under the age of five, die of hunger daily while at the same time one-third of the world’s food production gets wasted or lost, according to the FAO. On one hand improved production techniques produce bumper harvests while millions of children starve elsewhere in the world because a proper supply chain does not exist. Wastage in developed countries has reached frightening proportions and according to a recent UNEP website report, retailers and consumers in these countries discard around 300 tonnes of perfectly edible food just because it is cosmetically unattractive.
Sustainability is an often quoted word these days but its meaning is not well understood. Sustainability is based on the two pillars of society: economy and the environment. It is not just about the environment, rather it emphasises the need for the two pillars to work and grow in harmony. In our technology driven world, economic prosperity is often at the cost of the society and environment. Large corporations and business tout their support for the environment while at the same time they quietly exploit poorer societies in some remote corner of the world for raw materials, paying little heed to the environmental degradation that is left behind in their wake. Children in third world countries wear out their fingers in sweatshops stitching designer label clothes and shoes for multinationals who claim to be “green conscious” in their marketing campaigns. This paradox is a harsh reality which is the biggest stumbling block in our road to sustainability and in most cases it is at the cost of a child’s rights because we are perceived to be expendable.
Thirty years ago the Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland water lake in the world but is today an arid desert . The corporate giants which diverted the water feeding this lake for driving industries elsewhere were never taken to task for causing this environmental disaster. Businesses need to have sustainable accountability which should hold them liable for their actions across the globe. Oil companies splurge millions of dollars on touting their corporate image of sustainability at home, while carelessly dumping tonnes of toxic effluents into the fertile soil of some backward country from where they drill their oil with the promise of some economic benefit to the policy makers of that region.
We, children and youth, are the future generation and yet we are amongst the least represented members of civil society. The current trend of economic prosperity at the cost of the environment and society is going to affect us the most since our future is at risk due to this unchecked depletion of resources. Businesses will always be driven by economic considerations and can only become sustainable if there is proper legislation and control at all levels. One of our key demands is therefore the institutionalisation of Ombudspersons for future generations at a local, regional and international level, and they will ensure that rights of children are protected. These “green guardians’ should become an intrinsic part of our political system so that businesses and policy makers can truly understand and implement sustainable development in its entirety. Children have the same right to a pristine future which the adults of today inherited from their parents. However, we must start the process of change now – time is not our side. To quote Mother Teresa “ Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come, we have only today. Let us begin.”
About the author of this piece :
Kehkashan, 13 years old, is the Global Coordinator for Children and Youth at UNEP Major Groups Facilitating Committee. She is the only minor to hold this position in the history of UNEP. She is also the Youth Advisor for World Future Council and the Global President of the Children’s Board for Plant-for-the-Planet. She is from India and lives in Dubai,UAE with her parents.