"Children at the Heart of Sustainable Development”

On 26 September, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in an event hosted by HM Queen Silvia of Sweden, founder of the World Childhood Foundation and the Global Child Forum, with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The event was entitled “Children in the Age of Sustainable Development”.

Queen Silvia, HE Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health of Rwanda, Ms Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Post 2015 Development Planning, Ms Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor of New York City as well as the head of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and senior representatives of H&M and Ikea also took part in the event.

Queen Silvia made a powerful appeal to place children at the heart of the sustainable development agenda -- "We have gathered to ensure all children have access to their human rights, to nutrition, to safety, to love. This is the role of the Global Child Forum, to raise awareness, to mobilise the private sector, to act together for children's rights."

Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, made the stakes clear: "We meet at a very special time, a time of concern and anxiety, but also a time of hope." He highlighted the four major opportunities in 2015 to make hope real -- the world education conference of UNESCO in May, the financing summit in July, the UN summit in September, and the COP21 meeting in December.

“Children are the future generation – and they must stand at the heart of all efforts to accelerate towards the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and to shape a new global sustainable development agenda to follow,” declared the Director-General.

“We must do everything to bolster respect for the human rights of all children – to reach the unreached, to bring in the marginalised and to support the vulnerable.”

This meeting was an opportunity to highlight how the post-2015 agenda offers a unique opportunity to extend the achievements made by the Millennium Development Goals by working to prevent all forms of violence against children while ensuring access to life-long learning. 

Participants highlighted the importance of investing in the creation of healthy societies where children are included in every pillar of sustainable development.

Alek Wek, supermodel and ambassador for H and M spoke of the importance of education -- "you can love everything but you cannot lose your education."

Citing Nelson Mandela, Irina Bokova said: "Children are at once the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures." We can protect them, said the Director-General, to place the rights of children at the heart of the future agenda, through greater resources, deeper investment, and sharper policies, of which there are many positive examples.

The face of sustainable development must be a 10 year old girl, who is not married, not pregnant, who is not working, who is in school, and makes it all the way through secondary school and contributes to shaping her own community and the society -- we need to support her and put her at the heart of all our efforts."