India's Ridhima Pandey (2nd R) along with other youth-petitioners at a press conference at UNICEF House in New York
India's Ridhima Pandey (2nd R) along with other youth-petitioners at a press conference at UNICEF House in New York

New York: Sixteen youth activists including India's Ridhima Pandey and Swedish Greta Thunberg on Monday filed an "official complaint" before the United Nations Committee demanding the organisation to order member states to take actions for protecting children from the "devastating impacts" of climate change.

The youth petitioners are between the ages of eight and 17. They hail from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia, and the United States.

"Change needs to happen now if we are to avoid the worst consequences. The climate crisis is not just the weather. It means also, lack of food and lack of water, places that are unliveable and refugees because of it. It is scary," said Greta Thunberg.

According to a statement by UNICEF, the complaint was filed through the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Right of the Child, a voluntary mechanism which allows children or adults on their behalf to appeal directly to the United Nations for help if a country that has ratified the Protocol fails to provide a remedy for a rights violation.

Shortly after the announcement, 16-year-old Thunberg ripped into world leaders on their inaction, stating that they had stolen her dreams and her childhood with "empty words".

"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?" she told world leaders.

US President Donald Trump, who has been severely criticised for his pulling out of Paris Accord, called Thunberg a "happy young girl". "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Last week, over four million people in 161 countries took part in Global Climate Strike across the world ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, inspired by Thunberg.

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