Today, World Children’s Day, is an occasion to recognize the future. Children embody our potential to change the world. As we celebrate World Children’s Day today, let us reflect on our obligation, to our generation and theirs, to ensure that they are heard, and that their rights respected.
I have had the immense privilege of meeting children from around the world, the leaders of today and tomorrow, who create positive and real change in their homes, schools and communities. In constantly asking and questioning – why? how? why not? – children can effect change.
On my very first day with UN-Habitat, I met a group of children from Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. They told me about their day-to-day lives, their community, what they were learning in school, their hopes and dreams. I shared with them the importance of planning for the future, and their need for, and their right to an education. Through education, they can change the “impossible” to “I am possible”. They shared with me their love for their community, but their fears for their safety when walking to and from school, their desires for spaces to play and their sadness that many of their friends cannot afford school.
Engaging with children in cities and human settlements around the world is a cornerstone of our mandate to leave no one behind, and to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. At Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in 2016, UN-Habitat unveiled the Children’s Charter and Youth Declaration, which committed us to championing the rights of children and young people. Children want – and need – cities free from violence, open public spaces, quality education, pollution-free environments, and above all, to be heard.
This Charter is being translated into action by UN-Habitat, together with our key partners. For example, recently in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UN-Habitat conducted a workshop with school children, to engage them in designing and planning public spaces in their community using Minecraft, one of the world’s most popular video games. UN-Habitat and Block by Block Foundation have adapted Minecraft into a participatory planning and design tool to engage children and youth, including in Gaza and Mogadishu. If you provide children with the tools and space to be heard, their ingenuity, innovation and creative spirit are endless, and truly remarkable.
Our efforts to ensure a better urban future for all children helps them take back the rights denied them every single day. Cities, and all human settlements, can provide children the environment to be educated, feel safe, live and play, and fulfil their potential.
Today, UN-Habitat joins the call to #GoBlue. We call on world leaders to commit to fulfil the rights of every child and acknowledge that these rights are non-negotiable.