The political exploitation of children

The UN is using ‘children’s rights’ to advance the elites’ green agenda.

Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi

Topics Politics Science & Tech World

In its wisdom, one of those unelected and unaccountable United Nations committees decided last week that children should have the right to take national governments to court for failing to tackle climate change.

Like many other international bodies and NGOs, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is effectively using children to voice its own political concerns. In its new report, it praises ‘the efforts of children’ for drawing ‘attention’ to ‘environmental crises’. It claims that it is children rather than adults who possess the kind of wisdom necessary to tackle the problems facing the planet. And it calls for the legal affirmation and validation of the authority of children. ‘[Children’s] demands for urgent and decisive measures to tackle global environmental harm should be realised’, it states.

In the view of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, adults are the problem and children are the solution. Its approach is therefore fully in line with the cultural trend of adultifying childhood, which reverses the roles of adults and children. Children are deemed wise and considerate, whereas adults are presented as selfish and indifferent to others.

Of course, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is not really interested in what children think. It is simply ventriloquising children to advance its own beliefs. The report claims that children complained of ‘the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change on their lives and communities’, and that they ‘asserted their right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment’. The report quotes the children it ‘consulted’ as follows:

‘“The environment is our life.” “Adults [should] stop making decisions for the future they won’t experience. [We] are the key means [of] solving climate change, as it is [our] lives at stake.” “I would like to tell [adults] that we are the future generations and, if you destroy the planet, where will we live?!”’

The idea that adults should ‘stop making decisions for the future they won’t experience’ is absurd. It would mean the end of politics and public life. After all, almost every important political decision is likely to affect the future. This is why adults have a responsibility to take a long-term view of the problems facing society.

The UN committee is engaging in a fundamentally dishonest attempt to promote its political agenda through the medium of children’s rights. This is all typical of those calling for children’s rights. They seek to elevate the moral status of children above that of adults for their own ideological ends. It is a way of circumventing democratic debate on important issues, like the climate. It means that concerns about, say, living standards and the economy, which would undoubtedly suffer if the UN had its way, can be easily brushed aside. Anyone who dissents from the UN’s agenda is cast as an enemy of children and of future generations.

The elites’ use of Greta Thunberg has been typical in this regard. In 2018, she became the face of the School Strike for Climate movement when she was just 15 years old. The following year, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her veneration has always been premised on the denigration of adults, who are accused of failing to take responsibility for environmental problems. As one 17-year-old activist puts it on the Friends of the Earth website, ‘Adults are failing us on climate change: that’s why I’m striking’.

The UN has played a leading role in assigning children the authority to educate apparently irresponsible adults. In a lecture to the United Nations climate-change summit in December 2018, Thunberg stated: ‘Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.’ ‘We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with’, she added.

Youngsters have been more than ready to respond to these invitations to mistrust their elders. Posters stating ‘You’ll Die of Old Age, We’ll Die of Climate Change’ or ‘I Am Ditching School Because You Are Ditching Our Future’ regularly appear on climate-change protests. And at an anti-Brexit demonstration in London, a placard screaming ‘Adults Ruin Everything. Stop Brexit’ captured the broader spirit of adult-blaming that goes beyond environmental causes.

This is a deeply regressive trend. It is a symptom of cultural decadence. Adults have abandoned their authority. And they are irresponsibly using children to voice their own concerns and anxieties. They need to grow up.

Frank Furedi is the executive director of the think-tank, MCC-Brussels.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics Science & Tech World


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