Climate change: a first-ever global policy framework to protect children on the move

Geneva/New York/Washington, 25 July 2022 – The Principles for Children on the Move in the Context of Climate Change provide a set of 9 principles that present unique and overlapping vulnerabilities of children on the move, both within and across borders, due to adverse impacts of climate change. Currently, most child-related migration policies do not take into account climatic and environmental factors, while most climate change policies overlook the unique needs of children.

The Guiding Principles note that climate change intersects with existing environmental, social, political, economic and demographic conditions that contribute to people’s decision to move. In 2020 alone, almost 10 million children were displaced as a result of climate shock. With an estimated one billion children – nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children – living in 33 countries at high risk of climate change, millions more children may be forced to move in the coming years.

Developed in collaboration with young climate and migration activists, academics, experts, policy makers, practitioners and UN agencies, the Guiding Principles are based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified at a global level, and build on existing guidelines and operational frameworks.

The Guiding Principles provide a basis for national and local governments, international organizations and civil society groups to develop policies that protect children’s rights.

The organizations and institutions call on governments, local and regional actors, international organizations and civil society groups to adopt the Guiding Principles to contribute to the protection, inclusion and empowerment of children on the move in the context of climate change.


“Every day rising sea levels, hurricanes, wildfires and crop failures drive more and more children and families from their homes”said Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF. Displaced children are more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. They are more likely to lack access to education and health care. And they are often forced into early marriage and child labour. By working together, through coordinated action based on these principles, governments, civil society and international organizations can better protect the rights and well-being of children on the move. »


“The climate crisis has and will continue to have a profound impact on human mobility. Its effects will be most severe for certain parts of our society, such as children. We cannot put future generations at risk”said Director General of IOM, António Vitorino. “Migrant children are particularly vulnerable when they move in the context of climate change; yet their needs and aspirations are still overlooked in policy debates. With these guiding principles, we want to ensure the visibility of their needs and rights, both in political debates and on agendas. Addressing migration and displacement of children in the context of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters is a huge challenge that we need to address now. »

Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of International Migration

“While the new Guiding Principles do not offer new legal obligations, they distill and build on key principles that have already been affirmed in international law and adopted by governments around the world.”added Elizabeth Ferris, director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. We urge all governments to review their policies in light of the Guiding Principles and take action now that will ensure children on the move are protected from climate change now and in the future. »

United Nations University Center for Policy Research

The international community has been sounding the alarm for years about climate change and environmental degradation, as well as the likelihood of mass displacement of people. These predictions have come true, with climate-related migrations observed in all regions of the world. Among those displaced by the rapidly changing climate are a growing number of children. Although these children benefit from a range of international and national protections, the subject is highly technical and difficult to access, creating a protection gap for migrant children.”added David Passarelli, Executive Director of the United Nations University Center for Policy Research. “UNU, UNICEF and our partners have highlighted the need for concise guidance that communicates risks, protections and rights in clear and accessible language. The Guiding Principles for Children on the Road in the Context of Climate Change have been developed with this specific aim in mind. This tool helps navigate the complex nexus between migrant rights, children’s rights and climate change to respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of children on the move in the face of climate change. »

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