The first-ever Children’s Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), organized by Voices of Future Generations in partnership with UN DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, kicked off on 20 September at UN Headquarters in New York. With the goal to finalize the 2015 Children’s Declaration on these global goals, more than 30 child authors and leading student delegates of various national backgrounds, gathered together to express how children, as voices for future generations, can help to implement the SDGs in their own countries.
“Through education, we must build peace in young minds and nurture children’s creativity to shape more sustainable, just and peaceful societies. This is a message UNESCO is promoting globally throughout the year-long celebration of its 70th anniversary,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her endorsement of the books written by these child authors.
The overall aim of the Children’s Summit is to raise awareness of children’s vision on the rights of the child and sustainability values, and to express the voices of children on pressing global problems and new solutions in environmental, social and economic fields. Challenges involving the 17 SDGs were put forward, followed by children’s discussions regarding what world leaders should pay attention to, as well as how leaders can make the world a better place for all human beings.
“I think it’s extremely important that SDGs are translated into something that is meaningful for children,” said Dr. Markus Gehring, one of the organizers of the event. “There are many different ways to enlarge the impact of SDGs, but one of the ways is to organize children and let children sit in the middle to discuss how they feel about their lives and how they can live better. Giving children a voice is particularly important,” he emphasized.
The participating children gave speeches on the 17 SDGs. From poverty to global partnership, children’s emphasis varied from person to person. However, the discussions mostly concentrated on education, environment, equality and water.
“The SDG that I care about most is quality education,” said Ethan, one of the children representing the Asian region. He also expressed his concern about education, saying “education closely relates to employment. Good education can bring about job opportunities to the society.”
After rounds of discussions, the 2015 Children’s Declaration, which will be presented to senior decision makers and world leaders of the United Nations and beyond, was finalized. It proves that children can also raise their voices to save the planet and promote better access to their rights, and that they can contribute to make the world’s SDGs happen on the ground.
“I felt excited about this event,” said Jona, the young author of “The Epic Eco-Inventions” and “The Great Green Vine Invention”. “Children’s voices can tell others about problems. But most importantly, we can also become part of the solution.”
On 21 September, the young writers launched their books, which promote the values and voices of their generation, alongside the 2015 Children’s Declaration on the UN’s new world SDGs at the United Nations Bookstore.