What does sustainability mean for children?
Prevention and preparedness are better than a cure
Disasters, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides and typhoons, are responsible for untimely disruption and deaths. Unfortunately, children make up more than half of those affected and when a disaster strikes, children are the hardest hit.
In 2014, 87% of all disasters were climate-related, occurring overwhelmingly in developing countries that are least equipped to deal with them (UNISDR, 2015). It is also predicted that every year for next decade, over 175 million children will be affected by natural disasters caused by climate change alone. Children are the most vulnerable and have the right to be protected.
Unicef recognises the importance of making sure that children have the knowledge and life-saving skills that can support their survival and development in the event of a disaster. We work to promote disaster risk reduction programmes for the most vulnerable. If children are empowered, they need not be victims but can be agents of change too.
Building resilience, building back better
Wars, conflicts and disasters, both natural and climate-related, undermine sustainable development and years of progress. These events turn children’s worlds upside down.
Unicef responds in emergency situations to protect children whenever an emergency hits. We work towards reducing not just the immediate impacts of emergencies on children’s lives but also to make sure that children, communities and governments understand long-term risks and take action for sustainable development to help build back better for children and bring their lives back to normal.
“When we educate a girl displaced by conflict,” said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s Executive Director, “We’re not only giving her immediate protection. We’re helping her to shape her mind, build her own future, contribute to her family and society when she becomes an adult and perhaps even become a voice of peace in her community and country. That’s development.”
Looking ahead with the Global Goals
The new Global Goals define sustainability as, “a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.”
Accordingly, Unicef has charted out a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and has also adopted the Environmental Sustainability Strategy for children, which ensures that Unicef will work for and with children to protect them from environmental risks and provide them with basic services through sustainable solutions.
This is an exciting time and the momentum is building to make sure that more children around the world have clean air to breathe, a safe and continuous supply of water to drink, and life-saving skills and services to help them to have safer, secure futures.
Sustainable development means investing in those who must carry it in the future – sustainable development means investing in today’s children.
Meghna Das is Unicef UK’s sustainability programme specialist. You can follow Meghna on Twitter