Message from CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of UNICEF,
on the occasion of "Our World in the Year 2000" exhibition

 

I congratulate all the young people who participated in the Our World in the Year 2000 competition and whose work is included in this catalogue – not only for their art, but for sharing their dreams with us.  For young people and adolescents, growing up in that netherworld between childhood and adulthood, have a great deal to say about their lives and their hopes – and ours as well.

As of January 1, 2000, young people between the ages of 10 and 19 will make up 20 per cent of the human race – 1.2 billion people – and it is not an exaggeration to say that how effectively they navigate the shoals of adolescence will help determine how well the rest of humanity weathers the coming challenges of the next century.

The difficulties they face are laid bare in the latest UN statistics, which show, for example, that every day, more than 7,000 people under 25 become infected with the virus that causes AIDS – a figure that represents 50 per cent of all new sexually transmitted cases. And adolescent girls have infection rates that are up to five times higher than boys. Moreover, 70 per cent of all premature deaths among adults are the result of behaviours that began during adolescence, such as the contraction of HIV, or the use of tobacco.

Yet it is adults, not young people, who create the most onerous burdens, and they do so by denying children and adolescents their fundamental human rights – the right to health services and nutrition, to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation; the right not to be drawn into armed conflict as child soldiers or sexual slaves; the right not to be pressed into hazardous and exploitative forms of child labour; the right to participate and to make their views heard; the right to a basic quality education, and to a supportive environment free of exploitation and coercion – especially sexual coercion.
UNICEF and our many partners throughout civil society and the UN System have been focusing on adolescents since the early 1990s for one major reason: because that period in a child’s life is a unique window of opportunity to break a range of vicious cycles – cycles that perpetuate structural problems that undermine child rights, and that are passed down from one generation to the next, such as poverty, gender discrimination, violence, and poor health and nutrition.

What is needed now are increased efforts to promote youth participation and commitment; more services aimed at youth; more parental involvement; more education and information, using schools and other sites; more protection for girls, orphaned children, and young women; and more partnerships with people with HIV and AIDS.

The work represented here, much of it from developing countries, portrays the promise of what is possible if we listen, and if we care – and what will be lost if we do not. UNICEF is honoured to be selected as a beneficiary of funds raised from the sale of this catalogue, and from the sale of a painting of the Amazon rainforest by Mr. Ramón Piaguaje, winner of the Our World competition. The funds raised will go to assist children and women who are among the poorest of the poor.

I also want to acknowledge the imagination and generosity of Winsor & Newton in supporting Our World in the Year 2000, which has gone to some of the world’s most inaccessible spots to find new and outstanding artists whose work will grace and challenge the new millennium. Finally, I want to thank Sheeran Lock for making the exhibition of Our World in the Year 2000 into something that the whole world will appreciate and enjoy.  I commend this effort and send every good wish for its success.

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