Why CRIN is joining the #climatestrike

[18 September 2019] - CRIN will be joining the global climate strike on 20 September and thereafter. It’s the first time the organisation as a whole will take part on a working day. But we won’t just be attending the strike in person; we’re also blacking out our website. To explain our intentions, there are four reasons why we’re joining the climate strike. 

Because we’re a children’s rights organisation.

CRIN defends the human rights of under-18s, so it would be a huge disservice if we didn’t take a stand alongside young people on an issue they’ve identified as mattering to them. We’ve previously criticised how well-meaning organisations paternalistically decide what children’s rights issues are important without consulting children themselves on what concerns them the most and what changes in the world they want to see. On this basis, if we didn’t strike then we’d be hypocrites for not practising what we preach. Admittedly, we recognise we could’ve joined sooner. If anything this illustrates how young people have taken action while adults have largely stood by watching. Now, however, we manifestly stand in solidarity with the youth strikers who are leading by example and the rest of us are following in their footsteps.

Because we uphold under-18s’ right to protest.

It came to our attention that a number of schools and authorities in multiple countries have complained about school students missing classes to take part in climate protests, saying that their rightful place is in school, and even imposing sanctions on those who strike. However, while children certainly have the right to education, it’s not their only human right. Under-18s have civil rights of their own, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly just like anyone else, and all without discrimination based on their age. These rights unquestionably include the right to speak out and protest, and any failure to recognise this, or preventing youth strikers from organising and taking part in protests, is a failure to recognise under-18s as people with independent human rights. 

Because we uphold the principles of democracy and civil rights for everyone, regardless of age.

What authorities are failing to recognise is that the youth climate strikes are also a demand for democracy directly from young people because their only way of making public demands and influencing policy on issues that matter to them is through protests and civil disobedience. In practice, children have very little say in the decisions that govern their lives. We live in a world run by adults with rules set by adults, but it’s today’s children who will inherit the consequences in years to come of adults’ political choices, including in the face of the climate crisis, despite having had no say in how those choices were made. And what rubs salt in the wound is that under-18s can’t even challenge the conditions that exclude them from decision-making precisely because they’re not legally entitled to, that is, through the right to vote - one of the most effective ways to help people defend their rights and hold their representatives accountable on the issues that matter to them. But while it already exists for under-18s in a handful of countries, it is denied to the majority of under-18s around the world. At CRIN we believe that anyone should be able to vote as and when they choose to do so and are able to register for voting.

Because we’re the Earth’s custodians, not its owners.

We’re not just protesting because young people are; we’re protesting also because we recognise that it’s in everyone’s interests, including our own. It goes without saying that humans cannot live and have rights if there is no planet to live on. Ensuring this does not happen is therefore a fundamental precondition to human rights. Every human has the right to a clean and healthy environment, but the planet isn’t ours to do with it as we wish; it’s our responsibility to act as custodians and preserve the planet so that generations of people to come can enjoy it too. This should make us ask hard questions about how we live and what needs to change in terms of our impact on the environment. But also of particular relevance to organisations like ours, the situation requires us to reassess the issues we tackle in our work, that is, whether we’re pushing for changes where they’re most fundamentally needed. In the words of Greta Thunberg: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope.”