The Hague, New York – Sixteen-year-old Kehkashan Basu from the United Arab Emirates is the 2016 winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize. Today, she was presented with the prestigious award for her fight for climate justice and against environmental degradation. Kehkashan received the prize from Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus in the presence of the world press and many prominent guests. The International Children’s Peace Prize is an initiative of KidsRights, the foundation committed to defending children’s rights worldwide.
Professor Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts for economic and social development, today underlined the urgency and importance of Kehkashan’s work, as more than three million children under the age of five die every year from environment-related diseases and many more suffer deeply from environmental issues. Mr Yunus said: “It is a great achievement for such a young person to already have such reach and impact with her important message. A healthy environment is essential for the survival, wellbeing and development of children, and therefore it is a precondition for the realization of the rights of the child. Kehkashan teaches us that we all have a responsibility to work towards a sustainable future.”
When Kehkashan was eight, she started educating neighbours on the importance of saving the environment. She planted her first tree and brought together children to collect and recycle waste. She founded her organization Green Hope at the age of twelve, through which she has initiated countless cleanup operations and awareness campaigns. Kehkashan then became the youngest ever Global Coordinator for the Major Group for Children and Youth of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Green Hope has become an international organization with activities in more than ten countries and over a thousand young volunteers.
KidsRights’ founder Mr. Marc Dullaert today said Kehkashan was chosen as winner by the Expert Committee because she proves that one child can start a movement with enormous reach and impact: “Kehkashan has managed to mobilize thousands of children to save the environment. Children are the most vulnerable group and are without exception hit the hardest during environmental crises. They are, for example, the most vulnerable to water and air pollution. Children’s rights and environmental development are inextricably linked. To realise both, environmental rights for children should be embedded in international policy. KidsRights therefore calls upon the UN to supplement the Convention on the Rights of the Child to specifically include these environmental rights.”
Upon receiving the prize today, Kehkashan confirmed that her work will continue: “I will keep encouraging children and adults to create a more sustainable future. I call upon everyone to think of ways to contribute to the preservation of the environment. Take that extra step; walk that extra mile to get the future we want. Time is not on our side – we have to act now, or we will have polar bears under palm trees.”
About KidsRights Report 2016 – Cleaning up the Mess: Children’s Rights and Environmental Protection
In honour of the International Children’s Peace Prize 2016, KidsRights together with Leiden University’s Faculty of Law has written the report Cleaning up the Mess: Children’s Rights and Environmental Protection
. It comprises findings from global research into the relation between environmental degradation and the rights of the child. More than three million children under the age of five die every year from environment-related diseases and many more suffer deeply from environmental issues. In the report, KidsRights offers urgent recommendations on how to integrate environmental protection with the rights of the child. Children have a major role to play in this and must be taken seriously.
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